Omega-3 fatty acids in foods may reduce symptoms of childhood asthma, while omega-6 fats may aggravate them, a small study suggests.
Omega-3s are found in high concentrations in fish and walnuts. Omega-6 sources include corn oil and other vegetable oils. Some foods contain both.
Researchers studied 135 asthmatic children, ages 5 to 12, living in Baltimore’s inner city. At the start of the study and then again at three and six months, the children were assessed for diet, asthma symptoms and the use of asthma medicines. At each assessment, blood samples were taken. Devices placed in their homes measured air pollutant levels.
The study, in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine, found that higher omega-6 intake was associated with increased asthma severity, more severe effects of particulate pollution on asthmatic symptoms, and increased blood levels of neutrophils, a type of white blood cell associated with inflammation.
Children with higher omega-3 intake, on the other hand, had milder symptomatic reactions to indoor pollution, and lower blood levels of neutrophils.
“We controlled for what we could,” said the lead author, Dr. Emily P. Brigham, an assistant professor of medicine at Johns Hopkins. “But before we say that this is causal, before we recommend changing diets, we need controlled studies. If we find a link between diet and asthma that’s affecting these kids, that’s incredibly important.”
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