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Previous studies have shown that children and adults who eat oily fish, which contains a high concentration of omega-3 fatty acid, have a lower prevalence of asthma symptoms. As part of the Childhood Asthma Prevention Study, Jennifer K. Peat, PhD, University of Sydney, Australia, and colleagues measured the effects of dietary supplementation with omega-3 fatty acids in 616 children with a high risk of developing asthma. Omega-3 fatty acids decrease the production of the mediators that facilitate airway inflammation.
The aim of the study was to increase the proportion of omega-3 fatty acids in the diet and decrease the proportion of omega-6 fatty acids, which play a role in increasing airway inflammation. The children were randomly assigned to either a dietary intervention group or a control group.
Children in the dietary intervention group received tuna fish oil capsules to add to each meal and were provided with canola-based oils and spreads, which are high in omega-3 fatty acids, and low in omega-6 fatty acids, to use in all food preparation. The control group received placebo capsules and were provided with widely used soybean-based polyunsaturated oils and margarines high in omega-6 fatty acids for use in all food preparation.
At three years of age, the proportion of omega-3 fatty acids was higher in the intervention group than in the placebo group. Researchers found that the dietary intervention significantly reduced the prevalence of cough in children with a high risk of developing asthma.
While the intervention showed no effect on the prevalence of asthma, it is believed that cough at age three can be associated with allergic inflammation of the airways and that the dietary intervention was effective in reducing this inflammation.
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