New research, led by Queen Mary University of London and published in the “European Respiratory Journal,” suggests that higher dietary intake of long-chain omega-3 fatty acids in childhood may reduce the risk of later developing asthma. But only in children who are carriers of a common genetic variant.
Lead author Professor Seif Shaheen of Queen Mary University of London explains that “Asthma is the most common chronic condition in childhood and we currently do not know how to prevent it. It’s possible that a poor diet can increase your risk of developing asthma, but so far most studies have taken “snapshots”. measuring diet and asthma for a short period of time. ‘
“Instead,” he continues, “we measured the diet and then we followed the children for many years to see who developed asthma and who did not. And, while we can’t say for sure that eating more fish will prevent asthma in children, based on our findings. it would be sensible for children in the UK to consume more fish, as currently few reach the recommended intake.
Fish is of particular interest because it is a rich source of long-chain omega-3 fatty acids, eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), which have anti-inflammatory properties.
Three decades of study
The study used data from a large UK birth cohort, the Children of the 90s, which recruited mothers who were pregnant in the early 1990s and has been following his offspring ever since.
They analyzed the association between EPA and DHA intake from fish at 7 years of age (estimated using food frequency questionnaires) and the incidence of new cases asthma diagnosed by a doctor between 11 and 14 years of age.
Intake of long-chain omega-3s from fish was not associated with asthma in the cohort as a whole (4,543 people). However, the team looked more closely at children with a particular genetic makeup.
More than half of the children carried a common variant in the fatty acid desaturase gene (FADS) 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 percent lower, comparing those in the upper quartile of long-chain omega-3 intake with those in the lower 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 with certainty that higher intakes of long-chain omega-3 fatty acids in childhood can prevent further 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.
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