Asthma is defined as a condition wherein a patient’s airways narrow, swell, and produce extra mucus. As a result, it becomes more difficult to breathe and triggers a cough, wheezing, and shortness of breath. According to the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology (AAAAI), the number of people with asthma continues to grow and in 2009 (last year for which the statistics are available) one in 12 people had asthma accounting for 25 million Americans or 8% of the population. More children (57%) than adults (51%) experience an asthma attack. Also, about one in ten children (10%) has asthma which affects their quality of life. The latest study discovered that Omega-3 supplements have the potential to prevent asthma in children.
Omega-3 supplements and asthma
Decreased intake of Omega-3 fatty acids could be a major contributor to the increased prevalence of wheezing disorders. This fact inspired Hans Bisgaard and a research team at the Copenhagen University Hospital and the University of Waterloo to carry out a study whose primary objective was to assess the effect of supplementation with Omega-3 in pregnant women on the risk of persistent asthma and wheeze in their offspring.
For the purpose of the research, scientists randomly assigned 736 pregnant women at 24 weeks of pregnancy to receive 2.4g of fish oil or placebo on a daily basis. A total of 695 children were included in the research. The study discovered that the risk of persistent asthma or wheeze in the fish oil group was 16.9% while the offspring of women from the placebo group had a 23.7% risk of getting asthma. Based on these results, scientists found that women who received long-chain supplements in the 3rd trimester reduced the risk of asthma to their children by 30.7%. Long-chain Omega-3 fatty acids include EPA and DHA are, primarily, found in fish living in cold water and are known for their immunity regulation properties.
One of the most important discoveries in this research was the fact that women with low blood levels of DHA and EPA at the onset of the research experienced the greatest benefits from the Omega-3 supplementation. These women reduced children’s risk of developing asthma by 54%.
Member of the research team, Ken D. Stark elaborated that deficiency of EPA and DHA is even higher in Canadian and American women than in ladies from Denmark. This means that we could expect an even greater reduction in asthma risk among the North American population. Professor Stark suggests that identifying these pregnant women and providing them with Omega-3 supplements poses as an effective way to reduce and prevent asthma during childhood.
Childhood asthma: causes and symptoms
The underlying cause of childhood asthma is still poorly understood, but developing an overly sensitive immune system plays a major role. Other factors that contribute to asthma include heredity, exposure to environmental factors such as air pollution and smoking, and certain types of the airway at a young age. In most cases, the child experiences the following symptoms:
- Chest congestion or tightness
- Chest pain, especially in younger children
- Delayed recovery or bronchitis after a respiratory infection
- Frequent, intermittent coughing
- Poor sleep
- Shortness of breath
- Trouble breathing that may limit exercise or playtime
- Wheezing or whistling sound when exhaling
Asthma is a condition that affects millions of adults and children although it’s more prevalent in the latter. The condition affects a child’s quality of life, limits physical activity and play disrupts sleep, and so on. A study from Denmark discovered that mothers who took Omega-3 supplements in pregnancy significantly reduced their children’s risk of wheeze and asthma.