In Canada, asthma is reported to account for nearly 80% of chronic disease cases. Children are the most affected: one out of five children suffer from asthma or a related disorder before beginning school, and asthma continues to be a major cause of hospitalization for children.
The cause of asthma is still unknown and a cure is yet to be discovered. However, new research from the Copenhagen Prospective Studies on Asthma in Childhood (COPSAC) group and the University of Waterloo suggests that you may be able to lower your child’s risk for asthma before they’re even born.
The study found that consumption of certain omega-3 fatty acid supplements during pregnancy can decrease the risk of childhood asthma by one third.
“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 childhood asthma,” Professor Hans Bisgaard, part of the COPSAC group at the Copenhagen University Hospital, told the University of Waterloo news.
Long-chain omega-3 fatty acids are commonly found in cold water fish, such as salmon and tuna. They are known for containing eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) that help regulate the human immune response.
In this study, 736 pregnant women were given either 2.4 grams of long-chain omega-3 supplements (fish oil) per day or placebo (olive oil) during their third trimester of pregnancy. Then, rapid analytical techniques developed at the University of Waterloo were used to measure EPA and DHA levels in their blood to provide accurate evaluation of the participants’ nutrient status.
The test revealed that the women who consumed omega-3 supplements during their pregnancy had lowered their children’s chance of developing asthma by 31%. The effect was even greater in women with low blood levels of EPA and DHA at the beginning of the study. For those women, the risk of child asthma was reduced by 54 percent.
Currently, asthma cannot be cured, only kept in check using medicated inhalers or through the removal of potential triggers. This study presents a relatively simple method of reducing the incidence of childhood asthma and shows that prevention may be possible.
If you or your child suffer from asthma, head to Asthma.ca for more information.