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Omega-3 Fatty Acids Fewer Asthma Symptoms in Children

2019-04-11 09:42 Thursday

A six-month study of children in Baltimore by Johns Hopkins University medical researchers adds to evidence that adding more omega-3 fatty acids to the diet can reduce asthma symptoms caused by indoor air pollution.

The same research suggests that higher levels of omega-6 fatty acids in the diet may have the opposite effect and worsen asthma symptoms.

The results were published online March 29 in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine, the researchers said. The study suggests that families and health-care providers can protect children from harmful effects of indoor air pollution by encouraging them to eat more omega-3 fatty acids (like salmon) and to reduce omega-6-rich foods (like soybean oil and corn oil) from their diets. In addition, the school lunch policy can be changed accordingly.

Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Indoor air pollution, including cooking, sweeping and smoking, is a known cause of asthma symptoms. The team's earlier work showed that Baltimore's indoor air pollution levels, particularly particulates in the air in homes, tend to exceed the Environmental Protection Agency's acceptable standards for outdoor air quality.

There is growing evidence that omega-3 and omega-6 levels may play a role in lung health by altering how the body responds to and processes inflammation. Omega-3 fatty acids, which are abundant in fish, certain nuts and seeds, are considered healthy in part because they reduce inflammation.

The new study involved 135 children aged 5 to 12 with asthma. 96% of the children are African American and 47% are girls. About a third of children have mild, a third moderate and a third severe asthma. In general, the more symptoms, the more medication, the worse the lung function, the more severe the asthma.

The study found that for every gram of omega-6 consumed, the risk of more severe asthma in children increased by 29%. The more omega-6 in the diet, the higher the proportion of a type of white blood cell (neutrophil) associated with inflammation.

In contrast, a 0.1g increase in the intake of omega-3 fatty acids in the same environment increased the risk of asthma symptoms remission by 4%.

The United States Department of Agriculture recommends 0.9 to 1.6 grams of omega-3 per day (the equivalent of about 3 ounces of salmon) and 10 to 16 grams of omega-6 per day (the equivalent of about 3 grams or half a tablespoon of soy oil).

Researchers say many children in the United States, including those living in Baltimore, eat differently from the national diet. In keeping with the typical American diet, there are fewer omega-3 rich foods and more omega-6-rich foods. Researchers also recognize that low-income people tend to lack healthy food choices because foods rich in omega-3 are more expensive. Eliminating these barriers would be a critical step toward reducing health inequality and eliminating asthma inequality in the United States if diet could directly affect asthma health.

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