(NaturalNews) According to a study published in Acta Paediatrica, feeding fish to infants under the age of nine months lowers their chances of developing preschool wheeze and asthma. At the same time, treatments based on broad spectrum antibiotics increase the risk of wheezing, asthma and allergic reactions. The large scale research was conducted by a team of Swedish scientists led by Emma Goksor from the Queen Silvia Children's Hospital in Gothenburg.
The aim of the study was to analyze both the risk factors associated with the onset of preschool wheeze, and the alleviating agents. "Recurrent wheeze is a very common clinical problem in preschool children and there is a need for better medical treatment and improved understanding of the underlying mechanisms," explained Dr. Emma Goksor.
Data was gathered from 8176 randomly chosen families with new born babies. This represents 50% of the total number of births in the western part of Sweden. The parents were asked to answer questionnaires when their children were six months, 12 months and 4.5 years old. The initial questionnaires included answers on administration of broad spectrum antibiotics and pregnancy relevant factors, as well as the introduction of fish meat in the infant's diet. The last questionnaire gathered data on current health, past diseases and feeding habits. The scientists examined children that, at the age of 4.5, had more than three episodes of wheezing during the last year.
The analysis of their answers revealed that a high fish intake during pregnancy, as well as an early introduction of fish into the child's diet, significantly reduces the risk of wheezing and allergic reactions. The increased levels of polyunsaturated fatty acids taken from fish meals is reported to cut the chances of wheezing and allergy by as much half.
The most common types of fish in the children's diets were: white fish (79%), salmon or game fish (17%), flat fish (3%) and herring/mackerel (1%). The present study does not formulate conclusions regarding the influence of each type of fish on breathing-related problems, however. "Other studies have reported that the protective effect of fish on wheeze might be independent of the type of fish ingested," said the scientists. Feeding children fish also reduces the risks for eczema and allergic rhinitis.
Another key finding was that administering antibiotics during the first week of life doubles the chances of developing wheezing and other breathing problems by the age of 4.5. Administration of antibiotics this early in life is shown to alter the gut flora, impair the development of immunological tolerance and increase the risk of future allergic asthma. According to the science team, the study reveals a "more pronounced effect of neonatal antibiotic treatment in children with multiple-trigger wheeze, a phenotype more prone to develop allergic ('true') asthma".
Maternal treatment with Paracetamol (acetaminophen) during pregnancy can also count as a risk factor in the development of preschool wheeze. The chances of developing other respiratory conditions are doubled for children with wheezing problems. Fish has been found to mitigate some of the risks in these situations as well.
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