Maternal Omega-3 may Reduce Childhood Asthma

A new study investigating the effects of maternal supplementation of omega-3 during pregnancy and lactation may reduce the risk of infants developing asthma.


Recent evidence has supported the theoretical evidence that omega-3 fatty acids may reduce the incidence of asthma when given to women during pregnancy and lactation.

Omega-3 fatty acids are polyunsaturated fats that are important for the brain, cardiovascular system, and immune system. Studies have shown that omega-3 fats act as an anti-inflammatory by reducing the amount of inflammatory mediators within the blood and tissues. Inflammation attributes to many childhood conditions such as asthma, atopy and allergies. With the rise of allergies in kids and the devastating threat of anaphylaxis to foods and beestings, it is important to be vigilant with your childs immune system. Fortuitously, omega-3 has shown positive results in modulating the immune system by the interaction of T-cells to dampen the allergic response.

In the modern world where disinfectants and infection control dominate in the efforts to protect kids from getting sick, another phenomenon has risen to the surface. There exists a balance between early childhood infections such as the common coughs and colds, and allergic responses in infants.

When children are withdrawn or protected against contracting infections from other kids and the environment, the body’s response to allergies becomes amplified [1]. T-cells are the cells of the immune system that responds directly to the environment and mediate what kind of response will be initiated. Allergies are inappropriate inflammatory responses initiated by T-cells, which can result in conditions such as asthma. This is where omega-3 can help.

A new study shows that supplementation of fish oils to pregnant and lactating women may decrease the prevalence of childhood allergies. The investigation involved one hundred and forty-five pregnant women given omega-3 (1.6g EPA and 1.1g DHA) or placebo from the 25th gestational week over 3-4 months. Immune function tests revealed that omega-3 significantly reduced responses to food allergens and also was associated with a lower incidence of eczema [2].

These results are encouraging, and are in line with the current theory that omega-3 may modulate immune function associated with childhood inflammatory conditions. Omega-3 seems to shift the balance of T-cell responses back to a more neutral position where the responses are appropriate and proportionate to the immune challenge. Therefore, when children are exposed to allergens that usually stimulate an asthmatic response, the immune response is less likely to produce symptoms of asthma.

In summary, omega-3 supplementation during pregnancy and lactation may decrease the risk of infant asthma.

References
1. Herz, U. and B. Petschow, Perinatal events affecting the onset of allergic diseases. Curr Drug Targets Inflamm Allergy, 2005. 4(5): p. 523-9.
2. Furuhjelm, C., et al., Fish oil supplementation in pregnancy and lactation may decrease the risk of infant allergy. Acta Paediatr, 2009. 98(9): p. 1461-7.