SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA. Researchers at the University of Sydney report that the regular consumption of oily fish is associated with a much reduced risk of developing asthma in childhood. Their study involved 574 children aged 8 to 11 years.
The children's parents completed detailed questionnaires about the frequency of the intake of more than 200 foods for a one-year period. The children were evaluated for current asthma as defined by airway hyperresponsiveness and a tendency to wheeze with or without exercise. The researchers found that children who regularly consumed fresh, oily fish (such as mullet, orange roughy, Atlantic salmon or rainbow trout which contains more than two per cent fat) had a four times lower risk of developing asthma than did children who rarely or never ate oily fish. The risk reduction persisted even after adjustment for other risk factors such as parental asthma and smoking, early respiratory infections, race, and place of birth. Consumption of non-oily fish and canned fish was not associated with a reduced asthma risk. Fish oil contains the two omega-3 fatty acids eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). The researchers speculate that EPA may prevent the development of asthma or reduce its severity by reducing airway inflammation and responsiveness. A recent study suggests that long-term fish oil supplementation may reduce asthma severity.
Hodge, Linda, et al. Consumption of oily fish and childhood asthma risk. Medical Journal of Australia, Vol. 164, February 5, 1996, pp. 137-40