The Pediatric Asthma Center at the University of Denmark reported their findings on an asthma study they conducted. They found a 31% decrease in risk of the development of a persistent wheeze or asthma in children if their pregnant mothers took fish oil supplements in their third trimester of pregnancy.
The biggest contributing factors found in the study were published in the New England Journal of Medicine. In pregnant women who had low levels of eiscosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), other omega-3 fatty acids, the positive benefits were most recognizable. The risk of childhood development of respiratory conditions for these women was even lower than the others, who just received fish oil but did not necessarily have sufficient levels of EPA and DHA. This group’s risk decreased by a whopping 54%.
Other findings are coupled with those from the Pediatric Asthma Center. The Lipid Mediators, Inflammation, and Pain Unit of the National Institute on Aging along with the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism reported that the risk of asthma and other respiratory conditions in pregnant mothers who are genetically able to produce low amounts of EPA and DHA is even lower. EPA and DHA are types of fatty acids that the body cannot ordinarily produce on its own and instead must procure from food sources. So, what these findings suggest together is that maintaining certain levels of DHA and EPA in pregnant women is an important factor in inhibiting the development of childhood asthma and other respiratory illnesses, such as a chronic wheeze.
The evidence found in these studies indicates that doctors can try a different approach in the treatment of pregnant women who have a family history of asthma. Along with a family history of the disorder, doctors can test for fatty acid levels and genotypes and then create a treatment and prevention plan to increase the chances of a pregnant woman’s child being born asthma-free. Part of the treatment and prevention, it would appear from the studies, would be to prescribe a regimen of fish oil during pregnancy.
The use of fish oil supplements during pregnancy in all the studies did show an overall, reduced risk of asthma, chronic wheeze and other types of respiratory tract infections in children up to the age of five. One limit of the studies is that across internationally, variant amounts of fatty acids are consumed by different cultures and so the results have proven difficult to generalize.
Further studies on the positive effects of fish oil, DHA and EPA during pregnancy will continue to take place in upcoming years. Perhaps the studies will acquire a method of generalizing results or take place in a more comprehensive, national level. If you are a pregnant woman and have questions or concerns about your diet or lifestyle throughout your pregnancy, we urge you to consult directly with your healthcare professional or obstetrician.
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