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Consuming Fish Oil Supplement During Pregnancy Linked to Reduced Risk of Asthma in Children

Dec 29, 2016 10:37 AM EST

A new study from Denmark revealed that pregnant women taking fish oil supplements have lesser risk of giving birth to a child with asthma.

The study, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, showed that the children born in women taking the fish-derived fatty acids during the last three months of their pregnancy have 31 percent lesser risk in developing asthma.

"I would say that the finding that the effect was there was maybe not the surprise, because there have been indications," said Dr. Hans Bisgaard, a professor of pediatrics at the University of Copenhagen and lead author of the study, in a report from National Public Radio. "But the magnitude was very surprising to us."

For the study, the researchers recruited 736 pregnant women at 24 weeks of gestation. The participants were then randomly assigned to take either a pill of 2.4 grams of fish oil or a pill of olive oil, which served as a control. The researchers monitored the children for five years, with follow-ups conducted in the third and fifth year.

The researchers observed that 17 percent of the children in the group that received the fish oil supplements developed persistent wheezing or asthma by the age of five. On the other hand, 24 percent of the children born in the control group developed the same symptoms of asthma. The difference in the rate of asthma and persistent wheezing between the children of the fish oil group and control group translate to 31 percent lesser risk of asthma and persistent wheezing.

The fatty acids in fish oil were believed to prevent inflammation. Due to this, the researchers thought that it would be plausible for fish oil to lessen the risk of asthma by preventing the development of inflammation in the airways and lungs.

Even with their findings, the researchers can't recommend the consumption of fish oil during pregnancy unless their results are replicated in larger studies with more diverse population.

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