SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA. Childhood asthma is now a major health problem in Australia with 31% of West Australian children having been diagnosed with the condition. Chronic inflammation of the airways is also a major problem with 12% of the population reporting wheeze severe enough to disturb sleep. Studies involving Australian school children have shown that those who consume oily fish more than once a week have a significantly reduced risk of asthma.
High Fatty Acid Ratio May Be Asthma Risk Factor
Australian researchers now suggest that the epidemic of childhood asthma is associated with a change in the omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acid ratio in the Australian diet. It used to be around 5:1, but is now 15:1 or higher. They recently concluded a study of 355 school children of which 166 had been diagnosed with asthma at 6 years of age and the remaining 169 acted as asthma-free controls. A comparison of the two groups showed that the significant risk factors for asthma were:
- Gestational age less than 37 months (OR=2.93)
- Maternal asthma (OR=6.13)
- Breastfeeding for less than 6 months (OR=2.25)
- A high omega-6/omega-3 ratio in the diet (OR=1.93)
Consuming Fish or Fish Oil May Help Lower High Fatty Acid Ratio
After adjustment for other known risk factors the risk of asthma was 2.89 times higher among children with an average dietary omega-6/omega-3 ratio of 18 than among children with a ratio of 8. The researchers believe that the benefits of a diet high in omega-3 fatty acids are due to the inclusion of more EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid), the two main components of fish oil.
Oddy, W.H., et al. Ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids and childhood asthma. Journal of Asthma, Vol. 41, No. 3, 2005, pp. 319-26