The Different Ways Omega-3 and Omega-6 Affect Asthma
Both omega-3s and omega-6, which are found in a variety of foods, appear to impact asthma symptoms in children. Interestingly though, they seem to have opposite effects on asthma symptom severity. Specifically, new evidence suggests that omega-3 intake is associated with milder asthma symptoms in children, whereas omega-6 intake is associated with more severe symptoms.
The study, published in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine, involved following 135 children who live in Baltimore. The children ranged in age from 5 to 12. The researchers evaluated what the children ate and the level of air pollutants in their homes, as well as their asthma symptoms and their use of asthma medications. The children were assessed at 3 separate times: at the start of the study, after 3 months, and after 6 months.
Data from the study demonstrated that children whose blood samples had higher levels of omega-3s were more likely to have milder signs and symptoms of asthma. In contrast, the children with higher levels of omega-6s were at higher risk for more severe asthma symptoms and more severe asthmatic responses to certain pollutants in the air that are known to trigger asthma.
In addition to the correlation between omega intake and asthma symptom severity, the researchers also found that higher levels of omega-3 and omega-6 was also associated with physiological markers of asthma. Indeed, children with higher levels of omega-6s also had higher levels of immune cells associated with inflammation in their blood, whereas those with higher levels of omega-3s had lower levels of these cells.
Foods like fish, nuts, and seeds contain high levels of omega-3s, whereas omega-6s are more easily found in vegetable oils. These new data indicate that omega-3s may help to mitigate asthma symptom severity. Though the details on how omega-3s may confer their benefits to those with asthma is not yet clear, omega-3s are known to have other health benefits and are found in healthy foods. It is therefore reasonable for those with asthma to increase their intake of omega-3s, as they may enjoy benefits from more omega-3 consumption.