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Fish Oil During Pregnancy Associated with Lower Asthma Incidence During Childhood

Fish Oil Intake During Pregnancy May Be Associated with Lower Asthma Incidence During Childhood 

Over the years, the importance of the omega-3 fatty acid DHA found in salmon oil has continued to show cardiac benefits and brain, nerve, and eye development benefits.  Long ago I was recommending quality fish oil supplements (free of pesticides, PCBs, organic residues, etc., i.e., not your common, over-the-counter fish oil) to my pregnant patients when I practiced as a board-certified ob/gyn in Atlanta, Georgia.  It is now common for doctors to recommend DHA supplementation along with prenatal vitamins to their pregnant patients.  However, it is my belief that those commonly recommended doses should be a bit higher because of the tremendous benefits both to the mother and the development of the baby ...both short-term and long-term benefits.  Even I.Q has been correlated to the amount of DHA the baby receives through breast feeding.

USANA Health Sciences scientific department sent out a update regarding a study among pregnant women involving fish oil and olive oil vs. no oil at all that was published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition in July 2008.  The study followed the children of these women for 16 years, and discovered significant health benefits among the chidren whose mothers supplemented with fish oil!

Current evidence suggests that asthma development may be associated with maternal intake of marine omega-3 fatty acids during pregnancy. A recent study was conducted to examine whether an increase in omega-3 fatty acid intake during pregnancy could affect risk of asthma in their offspring. 

A population-based sample of 533 women with normal pregnancies were randomly assigned 2:1:1 to receive either four one-gram fish oil capsules/day providing 2.7 grams of omega-3 fatty acids, four similar looking one-gram capsules/day with just olive oil, or no capsules at all. 

During the 16 years that passed since childbirth, the rate of asthma incidence was reduced by 63% and the rate of allergic asthma was reduced by 87% in the fish oil group as compared to the olive oil group. 

Assuming that the intake of olive oil had no significant influence one way or another, these results support the theory that increased fish oil omega-3 fatty acid supplementation in late pregnancy may provide important preventive potential in relation to childhood asthma development.  Additional studies on this subject are currently in progress, which should shed more light on the mechanism behind this promising discovery.

The bottom line: Pregnant women should be supplementing with a quality brand nutritional supplement, that includes vitamins (with 1000 mcg of folic acid), minerals, antioxidants, plenty of calcium (approximately a daily total of 1000 mg per day) balanced with magnesium and vitamin D, fish oil capsules (not eating a lot of fish, as it contains mercury), and iron (which can be obtained over-the-counter).  Supplementation is always most effective if in place at least 3 months before a woman is pregnant, and studies are emerging showing that the baby's health is also effected by the nutritional status of the father.  Something to think about.

American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Vol. 88, No. 1, 167-175, July 2008



Ladd R. McNamara, MD Fish Oil During Pregnancy Associated with Lower Asthma Incidence During Childhood


American Journal of Clinical Nutrition - Fish oil intake compared with olive oil intake in late pregnancy and asthma in the offspring: 16 y of registry-based follow-up from a randomized controlled trial, July 2008


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