By Craig Weatherby
Can fish or fish oil pills help kids avoid asthma and respiratory allergies?
Although the evidence has been mixed, most studies suggest that answer is “yes”.
This good news appears to apply both to kids' own diets and to their mothers' diets during pregnancy and nursing.
Last year, Dutch scientists reviewed the available evidence concerning impacts of dietary omega-3s on children's risk of developing asthma and respiratory allergies.
As they wrote, “Increasing evidence suggests that intake of … omega-3 [fatty acids], improves respiratory health early in life.” (Hageman JH et al. 2013)
Now, Swedish scientists report that kids who ate at least two servings of fish per month in infancy were 75 percent less likely to develop allergies.
Swedish study links fish diets to lower allergy risk
Researchers from Stockholm's famed Karolinska Institute followed 3,285 children from birth to age 12 (Magnusson J et al. 2013).
Every four years from birth to age 12, the scientists asked the parents detailed questions about each child's diet, lifestyle, environment, and symptoms of allergic disease.
In particular, they asked the parents to detail the frequency with which their children ate fish from birth to age one.
Additionally, at age eight, the Swedish team tested the kids' blood for immune-system chemicals associated with common allergies.
They then looked for statistical links between the frequency of fish consumption in infancy and signs of allergic disease up to age 12.
The analysis showed that those who ate fish at least twice a month during the first year of life were 75 percent less likely to develop food allergies, seasonal allergies, asthma, or eczema.
As the Swedish group wrote, “Regular fish consumption in infancy may reduce risk of allergic disease up to age 12”. (Magnusson J et al. 2013)
Because this was an epidemiological study, it cannot prove a cause-effect relationship between early fish eating and a reduce risk for common allergies.
But it adds more weight to the considerable body of evidence suggesting that fishy diets early in life can help kids avoid allergies.
  • Hageman JH, Hooyenga P, Diersen-Schade DA, Scalabrin DM, Wichers HJ, Birch EE. The impact of dietary long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids on respiratory illness in infants and children. Curr Allergy Asthma Rep. 2012 Dec;12(6):564-73. doi: 10.1007/s11882-012-0304-1. Review.
  • Kiefte-de Jong JC, de Vries JH, Franco OH, Jaddoe VW, Hofman A, Raat H, de Jongste JC, Moll HA. Fish consumption in infancy and asthma-like symptoms at preschool age. Pediatrics. 2012 Dec;130(6):1060-8. doi: 10.1542/peds.2012-0875. Epub 2012 Nov 12.
  • Magnusson J, Kull I, Rosenlund H, Håkansson N, Wolk A, Melén E, Wickman M, Bergström A. Fish consumption in infancy and development of allergic disease up to age 12 y. Am J Clin Nutr. 2013 Apr 10. [Epub ahead of print]
  • Nafstad P, Nystad W, Magnus P, Jaakkola JJ. Asthma and allergic rhinitis at 4 years of age in relation to fish consumption in infancy. J Asthma. 2003 Jun;40(4):343-8.
  • Oien T, Storrø O, Johnsen R. Do early intake of fish and fish oil protect against eczema and doctor-diagnosed asthma at 2 years of age? A cohort study. J Epidemiol Community Health. 2010 Feb;64(2):124-9. doi: 10.1136/jech.2008.084921. Epub 2009 Aug 6.