High PUFA levels in children linked to reduced allergy risk

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07 Dec 2017 --- High levels of omega 3 and omega 6 polyunsaturated fatty acids in children’s blood are associated with a reduced risk of asthma or rhinitis at the age of 16 years, according to new research from Karolinska Institutet in Sweden. The study is published in The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology.

Allergic diseases such as asthma and rhinitis are common and often appear in childhood, Karolinska Institutet points out. Today it is known that disease risk is affected by both hereditary and environmental factors.

To date, Karolinska Institutet notes that the present study is the largest to investigate the association between levels of long-chain omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids in the blood and subsequent development of asthma and other allergic diseases. The study was conducted as part of the Swedish birth cohort BAMSE, and is based on analyses of omega 3 and 6 fatty acids in blood samples from 940 children.

Children less likely to develop allergies
The results show that children who had higher blood levels of long-chain omega 3 fatty acids at the age of 8 years were less likely to have developed asthma or rhinitis by the age of 16 years. High levels of an omega 6 fatty acid called arachidonic acid were associated with a reduced risk of asthma and rhinitis at 16. Among children with asthma or rhinitis at the age of 8 years, higher blood levels of arachidonic acid were associated with a higher probability of being symptom-free at age 16 years.

“Since allergies often debut during childhood it is of particular interest to study if children’s environment and lifestyle affect the development of these diseases,” says study leader Anna Bergström, researcher at the Institute of Environmental Medicine, Karolinska Institutet.

Polyunsaturated fatty acids are essential to life, and the omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids that the body is unable to produce itself must be sourced from foods such as nuts and certain vegetable oils; and long-chain omega 3 fatty acids are primarily found in oily fish.

“These new results and those of a previous study we carried out support the current dietary guidelines to eat fish two to three times a week and to vary between oily and lean fish,” says Dr Anna Bergström.

New evidence of the negative effects of a lack of omega 3 and omega 6 continues to be discovered. A prenatal lack of the fatty acids has been linked to schizophrenic symptoms in offspring, while omega 3 has also been found to boost gut microbiome diversity. (link = http://www.nutritioninsight.com/news/omega%203-boosts-gut-microbiome-diversity.html) NutritionInsight’s special report on omega 3 products can be found here.

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