Fish consumption in early childhood reduces risk of eczema, asthma

Children who consume fish early in life show significantly reduced occurrences of eczema, wheezing, and asthma at age six, according to a new study published in the journal Nutrients.

Researchers from St. Olav's University Hospital in Trondheim, Norway used figures from the pediatric allergy survey Prevention of Allergy among Children in Trondheim, which was started in 2000. Data from more than 4,000 families contributed to these new analyses, which investigated the relationship between the mother's or child's fish intake and the child's development of eczema, asthma, and hay fever.

All these health conditions have increased sharply in Norway since the 1950s. They have been linked to various changes in lifestyle, including that the population is eating less fish.

The authors considered other factors that may be involved, such as socioeconomic status. It could be that children from some social groups, such as having parents with higher education or high incomes, have health advantages regardless, due to multiple factors, the authors said in the study.

Perhaps these children simply have more fish in their diets, the authors wrote, and the health benefits aren't due exclusively to their fish intake, but to several other influencing factors as well. The research team accounted for these possible factors.

One conclusion from the study is that we should increase children's fish intake in the first year of life to have a preventive effect against eczema and asthma. The reduction ranges from 28 to 40 percent fewer occurrences for the various conditions.

"In line with previous meta-analyses of several studies, we found that consuming fish at the age of one year seems to reduce the risk of eczema, asthma and wheezing at the age of six,” said Torbjørn Øien, PhD, first author of the study, “This is more significant than the mother's intake of fish and cod liver oil during pregnancy and breastfeeding or the child's intake at two years, which do not appear to have the same protective effect.”