Taking omega-3 fatty acid supplements during pregnancy can reduce the risk of childhood asthma by almost a third, according to a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine.
The research, at the University of Waterloo in Canada, found that women who were prescribed 2.4 grams of ‘long-chain’ omega-3 supplements during the third trimester of pregnancy reduced their children’s risk of asthma by 31 per cent.
Long-chain omega-3 fatty acids, which include eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), are found in cold water fish and help to regulate immune system response.
During the study, researchers measured levels of EPA and DHA in pregnant women’s blood. It was found that those with low levels of EPA and DHA at the beginning of the study benefitted the most from the supplements. In these women, it reduced their children’s relative risk of developing asthma by 54 per cent.
Researchers analysed blood samples of 695 Danish women at 24 weeks of pregnancy and again one week after delivery. They then monitored the health status of each participating child for five years, which is the age at which asthma symptoms can be clinically established.