The rate of asthma in young children is on the rise, but a new Danish study may point towards a possible solution: taking fish oil during pregnancy may help prevent asthma and wheezing disorders, according to Fox News. Much more research needs to be done, so don't go rushing to the pharmacy just yet. But this latest evidence is promising. Researchers gave about 700 pregnant women capsules containing either 2.4 grams of fish oil or olive oil, and while 23.7 percent of the children born to the placebo group eventually developed asthma or persistent wheezing, only 16.9 percent of the fish oil babies did.
The most dramatic difference was in children whose mothers began with low levels of two fish oil ingredients, eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). Fish oil during pregnancy lowered those kids' risk for asthma and wheezing from 34.1 percent to 17.5 percent. This indicates that fish oil would be most beneficial for children whose mothers are lacking in EPA and DHA. Fox has reported that previous research supports the notion that lower maternal levels of EPA and DHA put children at an increased risk of respiratory problems, and in the future, doctors may consider testing pregnant women for the fatty acids.
It is possible to get fish oil benefits from eating fish, but study author Dr. Hans Bisgaard of the University of Copenhagen told Reuters Heath that "you really need to be very fond of fish to get sufficient amounts through your diet." Dr. Christopher Ramsden of the National Institute on Aging told Fox that 2.4 grams of fish oil is 15 to 20 times higher than what the average American ingests from food. Further research is needed to determine if the same benefits could be obtained from a lower dosage.
The World Health Organization recommends that people take no more than 3 grams of fish oil per day, as higher amounts can increase the risk of bleeding or lower blood pressure. And according to NPR, women who take fish oil during pregnancy give birth to babies who weigh, on average, a pound more than their peers, which can lead to complications during pregnancy and delivery. The bottom line, as always, is that pregnant women should follow doctors' recommendations and not take any medication or supplement during pregnancy without explicit instruction from a health care provider. But still, the study does offer hope for parents.