Recent European research suggests that the risk of developing asthma in childhood can be reduced if mothers take fish oil supplements during pregnancy. The study found that 63% of children whose mothers took the supplements during the last trimester of their pregnancy were less at risk of developing the illness.
Part of the European Commission's research programme, the research project involves experts from 16 countries. Trials consisted of 500 pregnant women in the last 10 weeks of pregnancy to examine the effect of fish oils on pre-term birth and low birth weight. One group of women was given fish oil supplements, another olive oil supplements and the third no supplements.
Once the babies were born to these women, the trial continued, and results showed that by the age of 16, 19 children had developed severe asthma. However, fewer of these children were born to the mothers who took the supplements.
There is strong biochemical evidence that the omega-3 fatty acids in fish oil may have effects on the immune system and possibly protect a fetus from developing asthma later in life.
However, further trials are necessary before any alterations are made to the current dietary recommendations for pregnant women.
This research can be read in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, or for more information click here.