Fish Oil, the Respiratory Tract, Wheezing and Asthma

Polyunsaturated fatty acids in pregnancy reduced the absolute risk of persistent wheeze or asthma and infections of the lower respiratory tract in offspring.

Fish oil has become one of the most popular superfoods available today. And for good reason. Multiple studies have proven that there are very real benefits to consuming the omega-3-rich oil, including reduced risk of heart disease, psychosis, epilepsy, vision loss, Alzheimer’s, mental stress, memory loss, prostate cancer, and post-partum depression, to name a few.

A new study out of Denmark has a new benefit added to the list: fish oil can reduce your child’s risk of asthma. A team of scientists at the Danish Copenhagen Prospective Studies on Asthma in Childhood (COPSAC) research center worked with Canadian scientists from the University of Waterloo to analyze the effects of fish oil consumption on childhood asthma. The CDC estimates that roughly 6.3 million American children suffer from asthma, a number that is rising every year.

The study involved almost 740 pregnant women, all 24 weeks into their pregnancy. Half of the women received a daily fish oil supplement that contained 2.4 grams of omega-3 fatty acids. The researchers followed the women through the birth of their child and all the way until the child turned five years old—the age when it’s possible to clinically diagnose asthma. The children were monitored throughout the study for the signs of asthma (persistent wheezing, respiratory tract infections, eczema, sensitization to allergens, and asthma complications). The data collected from the children showed that fish oil supplementation during pregnancy reduced the risk of childhood asthma by close to 31%. Only 16.9% of children whose mothers had received fish oil during pregnancy developed asthma, while 23.7% of the control group’s children did. Not only did fish oil help to reduce asthma risk, but it also decreased the change of lower respiratory infections.

Granted, for the children who ended up developing asthma, the fish oil didn’t help to reduce the severity of their asthma symptoms. However, the research proved that fish oil supplementation can help to prevent childhood asthma.

The truth is that the average North American woman doesn’t get anywhere near enough polyunsaturated fatty acids (including omega-3s) in her diet. This study only added to the mounting evidence that increasing PUFA intake is vital, even more so during pregnancy. Something as simple as taking a fish oil supplement can do wonders to protect not only your health but that of your unborn child as well.


1. Hans Bisgaard et al., “Fish oil-derived fatty acids in pregnancy and wheeze and asthma in offspring,”  The New England Journal of Medicine, doi: 10.1056/NEJMoa1503734, published online 29 December 2016, abstract.