- Fish oil supplements during pregnancy lowers the risk of asthma in the baby.
- Until the children turned five,they had a reduced risk of developing other respiratory tract infections such as bronchitis and pneumonia.
- The supplements had 20 times more omega-3 fatty acids than the normal daily intake.
Fish oil supplements during pregnancy can help reduce the child's chances of developing asthma during the first five years of life, medical researchers have discovered.
The children also had a reduced risk of developing lower respiratory tract infections such as bronchitis and pneumonia, the researchers from the Copenhagen Prospective Studies on Asthma in Childhood said.
‘The molecule Resolvin E1 in omega-3-fatty acids may help in preventing asthma though, cause-effect relationship remains unclear.’
A study of 695 newborns in Denmark found that the risk of developing asthma or a persistent wheeze dropped by a third among children whose mums took daily fish oil supplements during their third trimester of pregnancy.
For the study the researchers gave about 700 mums either daily capsules containing 2.4g of two types of omega-3 fatty acids found in fish oil - 10 times the normal daily intake in Denmark and 20 times that in most other countries - or placebo capsules of olive oil.
The women began taking the capsules when they were 24 weeks pregnant and until their babies were a week old.
The children were regularly monitored for any signs of wheezing, asthma, lower respiratory tract infections and skin conditions until they were five.
Among the children whose mothers took the fish oil supplements, 17 percent developed a persistent wheeze or asthma by the time they turned five compared with 24 percent whose mums had the alternative capsules.
The researchers said the results equated to a 30 percent relative reduction in the risk of developing asthma for children whose mums took the fish oil.
The effects were strongest among children whose mums had had low levels of omega-3 fatty acids before they started taking the fish oil supplements.
The Danish researchers said their findings, published in The New England Journal of Medicine
, could have wide implications for people with asthma around the world. "Our data therefore suggest that a sizeable effect may be expected from supplementation in other populations worldwide; however, this suggestion is speculative, since other factors may be at play in such populations," they wrote.
The researchers noted that the incidence of asthma and wheezing disorders has more than doubled in western countries in recent decades. One in 10 Australians are estimated to have asthma and most children with the long-term lung condition have symptoms before their fifth birthday.
At the same time, our intake of omega-6 polyunsaturated fatty acids has increased, thanks to a higher use of vegetable oils in cooking, while the intake of omega-3 has dropped.
Both types of fatty acids have been dubbed "essential" fatty acids because they are mostly obtained from food and cannot by produced by the human body.