Omega-3 supplements can prevent childhood asthma

December 29, 2016, University of Waterloo
Professor Ken Stark taking a sample of blood in Waterloo's Laboratory of Nutritional and Nutraceutical Research to determine the levels of omega-3 fatty acids. Credit: Light Imaging

Taking certain omega-3 fatty acid supplements during pregnancy can reduce the risk of childhood asthma by almost one third, according to a new study from the Copenhagen Prospective Studies on Asthma in Childhood (COPSAC) and the University of Waterloo.

The study, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, found that who were prescribed 2.4 grams of long-chain omega-3 supplements during the third trimester of pregnancy reduced their children's risk of by 31 per cent. Long-chain omega-3 fatty acids, which include eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), are found in , and key to regulating human immune response.

"We've long suspected there was a link between the anti-inflammatory properties of long-chain omega-3 fats, the low intakes of omega-3 in Western diets and the rising rates of ," said Professor Hans Bisgaard of COPSAC at the Copenhagen University Hospital. "This study proves that they are definitively and significantly related."

The study used rapid analytical techniques developed and performed at the University of Waterloo to measure levels of EPA and DHA in pregnant women's blood. The University of Waterloo is one of a few laboratories in the world equipped to run such tests.

"Measuring the levels of omega-3 fatty acids in blood provides an accurate and precise assessment of nutrient status," said Professor Ken Stark, Canada Research Chair in Nutritional Lipidomics and professor in the Faculty of Applied Health Sciences at Waterloo, who led the testing. "Our labs are uniquely equipped to measure quickly, extremely precisely, and in a cost-efficient manner."

The testing also revealed that women with low blood levels of EPA and DHA at the beginning of the study benefitted the most from the supplements. For these women, it reduced their children's relative risk of developing asthma by 54 per cent.

"The proportion of women with low EPA and DHA in their blood is even higher in Canada and the United States as compared with Denmark. So we would expect an even greater reduction in risk among North American populations," said Professor Stark. "Identifying these women and providing them with supplements should be considered a front-line defense to reduce and prevent childhood asthma."

Researchers analyzed blood samples of 695 Danish women at 24 weeks' gestation and one week after delivery. They then monitored the health status of each participating child for five years, which is the age asthma symptoms can be clinically established.

"Asthma and wheezing disorders have more than doubled in Western countries in recent decades," said Professor Bisgaard. "We now have a preventative measure to help bring those numbers down."

Currently, one out of five young children suffer from asthma or a related disorder before school age.

Explore further: Fish-oil fatty acids in pregnancy cut wheeze, asthma risk in child

More information: Hans Bisgaard et al. Fish Oil–Derived Fatty Acids in Pregnancy and Wheeze and Asthma in Offspring, New England Journal of Medicine (2016). DOI: 10.1056/NEJMoa1503734

Related Stories

Fish-oil fatty acids in pregnancy cut wheeze, asthma risk in child

December 29, 2016
(HealthDay)—For women in the third trimester of pregnancy, supplementation with n-3 long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids (LCPUFAs) is associated with a reduction in the risk of persistent wheeze and asthma in offspring, ...

Fish oil pills for pregnant moms may cut asthma risk in kids

December 28, 2016
Children whose moms took high doses of fish oil during their last three months of pregnancy were less likely to develop chronic wheezing problems or asthma by age 5, finds a study that suggests a possible way to help prevent ...

Diets rich in omega-3 fatty acids may help lower blood pressure in young, healthy adults

November 14, 2016
Healthy young people may be able to help prevent the onset of high blood pressure by eating diets rich in omega-3 fatty acids, according to a preliminary study presented at the American Heart Association's Scientific Sessions ...

Childhood BMI linked with asthma hospital admissions, but differs between men and women

September 5, 2016
Childhood body mass index (BMI) has been associated with hospital admissions for asthma in early adulthood, with overweight BMI measures increasing the risk of admission in women and underweight BMI measures increasing the ...

Pregnant Alberta women not getting enough omega-3 fatty acids: study

July 14, 2015
Nearly three-quarters of pregnant and lactating women in Alberta are not meeting the recommended intake of specific omega-3 fatty acids vital to their babies'development and to their own health, according to new research ...

Fish oil during pregnancy offers no protection for children against obesity

June 28, 2016
In Europe, almost one in three schoolchildren under the age of ten is overweight, if not obese. In the search for the cause of this phenomenon, fetal programming inside a mother's womb was put under scrutiny as a potential ...

Recommended for you

Chronic inflammation causes loss of muscle mass during aging

January 12, 2018
People start losing muscle mass at the age of 40—about some 10 percent of the total muscle mass for each 10-year period, which may lead to fall-related injuries, slowing metabolism and reduced quality of life. Today, very ...

Breathing exercises help asthma patients with quality of life

December 13, 2017
A study led by the University of Southampton has found that people who continue to get problems from their asthma, despite receiving standard treatment, experience an improved quality of life when they are taught breathing ...

Study highlights the need for research into prevention of inflammatory bowel disease

December 7, 2017
Countries in Africa, Asia, the Middle East and South America have seen a rise in incidence of inflammatory bowel disease as they have become increasingly industrialised and westernised, a new study has found.

Air pollution can increase asthma risk in adults, even at low levels

November 24, 2017
Living close to a busy road can be bad for your respiratory health if you are middle aged, new Australian research has found.

Evidence found of oral bacteria contributing to bowel disorders

October 20, 2017
(Medical Xpress)—An international team of researchers has found evidence that suggests certain types of oral bacteria may cause or exacerbate bowel disorders. In their paper published in the journal Science, the group describes ...

New compound discovered in fight against inflammatory disease

September 22, 2017
A 10-year study by University of Manchester scientists for a new chemical compound that is able to block a key component in inflammatory illness has ended in success.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.