A new review of research into fish oil consumption in pregnant women has found that eating fish and taking supplements are both equally likely to protect children from developing asthma.
Carried out by researchers at the University of South Florida in Tampa, the scientific review looked at two studies before concluding that children whose mothers consumed high-dose omega-3 fatty acids daily during the third trimester, whether from fish or supplements, were less likely to develop breathing problems.
The first study, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, looked at 346 pregnant women in their third trimester who took omega-3 fatty acids daily and 349 women who took a placebo. It found that women with the lowest blood levels benefited the most from fish oil supplementation.
The second study randomised pregnant women in their third trimester into fish oil, placebo and “no oil” groups.
The fish oil group took omega-3 fatty acids supplements daily, whilst the placebo group was given olive oil daily.
The “no oil” group was informed about the aims of the study, and were told that if they wanted, they could consume either fish oil supplements or fish during the third trimester.
The results showed that children of women in the fish oil and the “no oil” groups took less asthma medication as they aged to 24 years old, suggesting that both groups, whether consuming supplements or fish, developed less asthma.
Co-authors of the review, Richard Lockey, MD, and Chen Hsing Lin, MD, also suggest that pregnant women receive the same benefit as supplements if they follow the Food and Drug Administration and Environmental Protection Agency's recommendation to consume 8-12 ounces (2-3 servings) of low mercury fish per week.
“Omega-3 fatty acids cannot be synthesized by humans and therefore are essential nutrients which are derived exclusively from marine sources,” said Lin. “It may be premature to recommend daily high dose fish oil supplementation during the third trimester.”
“With almost equal to slightly higher cost, consuming 8-12 ounces (2-3 servings) of fish a week not only may attain the same asthma protection, but strengthens the nutritional benefits to infant growth and development,” said Lockey.
The findings can be found published online in The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology: In Practice.