Fish oil-derived fatty acids in pregnancy and wheeze and asthma in offspring

Asthma and wheezing disorders are on the rise, now affecting 1 in 5 young children in westernized nations.

Asthma and wheezing disorders are on the rise, now affecting 1 in 5 young children in westernized nations. At the same time, changes in cooking and agricultural practices have caused human intake of n-6 polyunsaturated fatty acids to climb and intake of n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids, especially the long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids (LCPUFAs) derived from fish, to decline. Researchers suspect a correlation between diets deficient in n-3 LCPUFA during pregnancy and elevated risk of asthma and wheezing disorders in offspring, but study results to date have been inconclusive. In the latest investigation, the Copenhagen Prospective Studies on Asthma in Childhood 2010, pregnant women were randomized to receive n-3 LCPUFA supplements during the third trimester. The risk of developing persistent wheeze and asthma was reduced by approximately 7 percentage points, or one-third, in the first 5 years of life among children whose mothers received n-3 LCPUFA daily. Supplementation was also associated with lower risk of infections of the lower respiratory tract but not with reduced risk of eczema, allergic sensitization, or other secondary outcomes. The findings show that n-3 LCPUFA supplementation during pregnancy significantly reduced the burden of wheezing and asthma in children in this Danish birth cohort. Additional research is needed to determine if the results can be duplicated in other populations.