As mums we know what we put into our bodies during pregnancy plays a role in the health of our baby. Scientists recently discovered a link between a lack of vitamin D in pregnancy and autism, and now research has found that boosting fish oil intake when you’re expecting could reduce the chances of your baby getting asthma.
While small studies have previous shown there’s some link between omega-3 deficiency during pregnancy and increased asthma risk in babies, this latest study has widened the scope.
Study Spanned More Than Five Years
University of Copenhagen researchers gave more than 700 women a 2.4g supplement each day. Some of the pills contained fish oil, and other just olive oil, and they were given in the third trimester which is when a baby’s lungs are maturing.
Neither the mums nor the researchers actually knew which women had taken the fish oil or placebo until three years had elapsed, and the mums still didn’t know until their children were five-years-old.
The mums had been asked to keep track of how many times their child had a lung issue that lasted for more than three days, which was called persistent wheezing until a child turned three. After that point it was called asthma.
Results Promising, But Need Tested Further
What the researchers discovered is that 17 per cent of the children whose mums had taken fish oil developed a breathing problem by the time they turned five.
In the group that didn’t have fish oil, 24 per cent developed breathing problems. The fish oil group also had less cases of infections like bronchitis and pneumonia.
Interestingly, the most benefit was to those women who had the lowest blood levels of omega-3 at the start of the study. It means there may be a way to tell who would most benefit from taking fish oil supplements during pregnancy.
While the study concludes that pregnant women taking fish oil supplements during the third trimester reduces the risk of asthma developing by a third, other experts say we should be cautious about the results.
Warning Not To Rush To Take Supplements
University of Adelaide research dietician Maria Makrides told NPR that she wouldn’t recommend women take fish oil supplements based on this study.
“It will be important to understand the differences we are seeing in some studies before we make strong general recommendations,” she explained.
The U.S. National Institutes of Health’s Dr Christopher Ramsden said in an editorial the high dose of fish oil in the study needs to be investigated to make sure it doesn’t impact behaviour, thinking abilities or other areas of health.
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