It has been revealed that the risk of asthma for children can be reduced if they eat fish in the first year of life. It is believed that introducing certain fatty acids found in fish between the ages of 6 and 12 months helps to protect against the development of asthma – the same effects did not appear if eaten outwith this time window. Children who eat fish outside of this time period do not seem to gain the same level of protective effects against asthma symptoms, including wheezing and shortness of breath, compared to those who did.
The study, based in the Netherlands, used evidence from over 7,000 children to form the conclusion that early exposure to select fatty acids in fish protects them against developing asthma in their lifetime. Lead author Jessica Keifte-de Jong, from the Erasmus Medical centre in Rotterdam believes that fish consumption was associated with a lower prevalence of wheezing between the ages of 6 months and a year, something not found outside this window.
Some parents, at the advice of some doctors, avoid introducing seafood early into a babies’ diet through fear of potential allergies. Research believes that the risk of asthma may be lower depending on the mother’s level of fish consumption during pregnancy, as well as the introduction of fish into a child’s diet early on.
The group of children used for the study were born between 2002 and 2006 in Rotterdam; the research found that 1,281 of the group ate fish in their first six months, 5,498 ate fish in the next six months and 431 did not have any fish in their diet until after the age of one. The children’s health records were then monitored when they were about four years old. Researchers also questioned their parents to discover if the children ever experienced shortness of breath of if they wheezed.
Just under half of the parents who did not feed their child fish before their first birthday mentioned that their child wheezed; in comparison those who were fed fish between 6 and 12 months, only 30% reported their child wheezing. Those who were fed fish before six months reported the same levels of wheezing as those fed fish after their first birthday.
Introducing fish to diets
Bernard Kinane, chief of the paediatric pulmonary unit for MassGeneral Hospital for Children in Boston, discussed that this would make reasonable sense as this is when a person’s immune system is getting educated. It is also good to see that there was no association with the amount of fish consumed and their asthma risk level, meaning that even a small amount of fish is beneficial.
Kinane discusses that there is mixed evidence in showing how helpful introducing a seafood diet actually is, as it may be beneficial to introduce fish between the ages of 6 and 12 months however, there could be other factors at play. He believes the study needs to be validated again before any real insights can be taken from the research.
Gareth writes on a number of health and wellness topics for AXA PPP health care who provide health care for children as well as families and individuals.