Fish oil supplements taken in the in the third trimester of pregnancy reduced the absolute risk of persistent wheeze or asthma and infections of the lower respiratory tract in offspring by one third according to a clinical trial published 12/29/17 in the New England Journal of Medicine.
The study was conducted by the Danish Ministry of Health (no surprise, funding for this type of study is very limited in the US) and bears the simplicity of design that is the hallmark of Scandinavian countries. Basically, 368 women were given fish oil in the final trimester of pregnancy and 368 were given olive oil. The babies of the fish oil moms had a one-third less chance of developing asthma AND lower respiratory infections.
The results of this study are astounding; this level of efficacy is way higher than what it takes to get a common asthma drug approved in the USA. In the study 2.4 grams of fish oil daily was well tolerated and absolutely no side effects were noted such as eczema or allergies
Based on this study I am recommending fish oil daily for all my pregnant and soon to be pregnant patients in the range of 2-2.4 grams depending on weight and current HDL/LDL levels. Everyone else can benefit from fish oil, the heart and brain health benefits of fish oil are also well proven and a subject for another post.
Many will ask what kind of fish oil to buy? First off, you want your fish oil from cold water ocean fish such as mackerel and sardines. I give my family Nordic Naturals brand but also like Carlson’s company, they both screen their products from contamination, source from the cleanest sources and pay attention to processing to preserve the good stuff. Vegetarians and vegans would do well with non-hexane extracted hemp oil.
Wherever you get your products, please don’t buy your fish oil on Amazon or use store brands. They can be sourced from unethical and unhealthy sources, be contaminated, rancid, fake etc. You can find Carlson’s brand in the major health food store or buy from my store.
The Asthma Sequela
Why is asthma on the rise? Certainly, smog and pollution are culprits but what is happening in the lower lungs that may provide the opportunity for asthma to take root and become a lifelong disease? Right now there are 6.3 million children in the USA who have asthma per the CDC. Many of these children will go on to be adult sufferers (currently 17.7 million).
As a naturopathic doctor treating asthma in children and adults, a typical sequela (progression of disease states) that I see starts with frequent lower respiratory tract infections suppressed by antibiotics. Poor diet and mom and baby following faulty nutrition directives to eat low fat foods sends the immune system into overdrive. Yearly flu vaccines and sterile environments lead to a poorly developed immune system cascading into inflammatory responses to the slightest environmental pollutant.
Wheezing and coughing impacts sleep, impedes daily performance and scares the parents who start the child on cortico-steroids ‘blasters’ and immuno-suppressant drugs.
I believe in 20 years we will look back at the pharmaceutical drug makers of today the same we think of the Marlboro company in the 1960’s: hook the children and make them customers for life, wheezing and coughing to the grave clutching an inhaler/pack of smokes.
If every pregnant woman in the USA was given fish oil per this study, we could save about one million kids from getting asthma and perhaps more considering this study was conducted in Denmark which has a lower incident already of asthma compared to the USA. In fact, in Denmark, asthma cases have been steady for 30 years. The current market for asthma drugs is the USA alone is about $13 billion currently and growing.
Fish oil supplementation provides broad spectrum health benefits to people of all ages and can greatly aid in preventing asthma and the occurrence of lower respiratory tract infections in children. It is a safe and cost effective supplementation protocol that has long been advocated by naturopathic doctors.
Naturopathic doctors have a wide toolkit to treat adult and children asthma and to increase the immune response without resorting to steroids and other immune suppressing drugs.
Study Method and Results
Roughly 350 pregnant women took a daily supplement of two omega-3 fatty acids found in fish oil, DHA and EPA. Five years later, researchers found that their children were one third less likely than a control group to develop asthma or a persistent wheeze. The reduction in asthma risk was most pronounced among mothers with lower levels of DHA and EPA, suggesting the supplement may have corrected an initial imbalance in their fatty acids.
Supplementation with 2.4 grams of fish oil in the third trimester of pregnancy reduced the absolute risk of persistent wheeze or asthma and infections of the lower respiratory tract in offspring by one third.