A recent study showed significant health benefits of eating fish in early childhood.
Allergy-related conditions such as eczema (atopic dermatitis), asthma, allergic rhinoconjunctivitis, and food allergies, have considerably increased since the 1950s. Some data suggested that dietary habits, particularly low fish and cod liver oil consumption, could be a related factor. Recently researchers studied whether fish and cod liver oil intake influenced children’s health. The results were published in the journal Nutrients.
For the study researchers used data from more than 4,000 families from the pediatric allergy survey Prevention of Allergy among children in Trondheim, which had been conducted from 2000. Children and their mothers were followed from pregnancy to the age of six years old. Mothers completed lifestyle questionnaires, including fish and cod liver oil intake, until children reached two years old and then questionnaires were focused on allergy-related symptoms at the age of six.
Eating fish once per week reduced allergy-related disease in children
Children who ate fish at least one time per week at one year of age were compared to children whose fish intake was less than that. The results showed strong health benefits of eating fish and cod liver oil. Children with at least once a week fish consumption had less occurrence of allergy-related diseases. The occurrence of eczema, for example, was reduced by 28%, and asthma occurred 40% less. In addition, the earlier a fish was introduced to a child, the lower the chances the child had of developing an allergy.
Type of fish did not make a difference
Furthermore, the results were not related to a particular type of fish. Both oily fish (e.g., ocean perch, halibut, salmon, trout, herring, and mackerel) and lean fish (e.g., cod, pollock/coalfish) led to health improvement. Also, there were no differences in outcomes between boys and girls.
Interestingly, the consumption of fish and cod liver oil by pregnant and breastfeeding mothers was not as significant as the fish intake by a child at one year of age. The same protective effects were not seen in children who started to eat fish at two years of age.
Apart from fish intake, researchers also took into consideration other factors such as a family history of allergy, parental cigarette smoking, and socioeconomic status. There was a possibility that children of parents with higher education and incomes could have some health advantages such as more fish in their diet, and other several factors that could play a role in the development of the diseases.
As a result, researchers concluded that children can benefit greatly from including fish or cod liver oil, which, according to the results of the study should be introduced as early in a child’s life as at the age of one.
Written by Anna Otvodenko
- Øien, Schjelvaag, Storrø, Johnsen and Simpson (2019). Fish Consumption at One Year of Age Reduces the Risk of Eczema, Asthma and Wheeze at Six Years of Age. Nutrients, 11(9), p.1969.
- EurekAlert!. (2019). Fish in early childhood reduces risk of disease. [online] Available at: https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2019-10/nuos-fie100419.php [Accessed 10 Oct. 2019].
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