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Eating more omega-3-rich foods can reduce risk of asthma in kids: Study

Published on:28 January 2021, 17:49pm IST
As rising air pollution levels add to the number of asthma cases, this study links omega-3 fatty acids to a reduced risk of asthma.
ANI
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Can eating more fish be the antidote to asthma? Image courtesy: Shutterstock
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Did you know that according to a 2018 study, about six per cent Indian children and two per cent Indian adults suffer from asthma? While these percentages might sound small, but once you factor in our 1.31 billion strong population the numbers reach millions. And given the ever-rising levels of air pollution, these numbers are only bound to rise.

Turns out, there is an antidote to asthma—one that can be obtained by eating a diet rich in omega-3 fatty acids.

Eating fish can reduce the risk of asthma in children

According to a study, a higher dietary consumption of long chain omega-3 fatty acids during childhood can reduce the risk of developing subsequent asthma reduces in children carrying a common gene variant.

The study was led by the Queen Mary University of London, in collaboration with the University of Bristol and the University of Southampton, UK, and Karolinska Institutet, Sweden.

Senior author, Professor Seif Shaheen from the Queen Mary University of London, said: “Asthma is the most common chronic condition in childhood and we currently don’t know how to prevent it. It is possible that a poor diet may increase the risk of developing asthma, but until now most studies have taken ‘snap-shots’, measuring diet and asthma over a short period of time. Instead, we measured diet and then followed up children over many years to see who developed asthma and who didn’t.”

Fish is of particular interest because it is a rich source of the long chain omega-3 fatty acids, eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), which have anti-inflammatory properties.

This is how the study was conducted

The study, published in the European Respiratory Journal, used data from a large UK birth cohort, Children of the 90s, which recruited mothers who were pregnant in the early 1990s and has been following up their offspring ever since.

asthma
All ‘fats’ aren’t bad , Ladies! These foods shall give your body the much needed healthy fats. Image Courtesy: Shutterstock

They analysed the association between intake of EPA and DHA from fish at 7 years of age (estimated by food frequency questionnaires) and incidence of new cases of doctor-diagnosed asthma at 11-14 years of age.

Long chain omega-3 intake from fish was not associated with asthma in the cohort as a whole (4,543 people). However, the team looked in more detail at children with a particular genetic make-up. More than half of the children carried a common variant in the fatty acid desaturase (FADS) gene which is associated with lower levels of long chain omega-3 fatty acids in the blood.

In these children, a higher dietary intake of long chain omega-3 fatty acids was associated with a lower risk of asthma. The risk was 51% lower, comparing those in the top quartile of long chain omega-3 intake with those in the bottom quartile.

Furthermore, this finding was also found in an independent birth cohort study in Sweden (BAMSE).

As they have only found an observational association, the researchers caution that they cannot say for certain that a higher intake of long chain omega-3 fatty acids in childhood can prevent the subsequent development of asthma. The next step is to see if higher intake is also associated with a lower risk of exacerbations in children who already have asthma.