Our Better Health

Diet, Health, Fitness, Lifestyle & Wellness


1 Comment

Can Man’s Best Friend Chase Away Eczema, Asthma?

Parents of children struggling with eczema or asthma might think that having a dog would only make it harder to control their child’s condition.

But two new studies suggest man’s furry best friend might actually provide some protection against allergic diseases.

The first study contends that having a dog in the house before you’re even born may help keep eczema at bay at least until your toddler years. The skin disorder is marked by dry, extremely itchy patches.

“Eczema is usually the first manifestation of [allergic disease] and eczema can predict the development of other [allergic diseases] as kids grow,” said study author Dr. Gagandeep Cheema, an allergy and immunology fellow at Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit.

The researchers analyzed 782 mother-child pairs and collected data on prenatal exposure to dogs, which included days where a dog spent at least one hour inside the home.

When the investigators compared kids with prenatal dog exposure to those without, the risk of eczema was reduced in children of dog households by about half at age 2. The effect appeared to diminish by age 10, but Cheema said the researchers are still gathering data and suggested that finding might eventually change.

The second study looked at living with dogs and the odds of asthma symptoms linked to substances found on the dog, such as bacteria, or the dog’s own allergens. This study included 188 children from Baltimore with the breathing and wheezing disorder. Ninety-two percent were black, and their average age was 10.

Researchers from this study found that the non-allergen substances on the dogs appeared to reduce the need for an asthma inhaler and reduced nighttime symptoms of asthma. On the flip side, exposure to allergen-inducing proteins from dogs seemed to up the odds of inhaler use and nighttime symptoms.

“Among urban children with asthma who were allergic to dogs, spending time with a dog might be associated with two different effects,” said study author Dr. Po-Yang Tsou, from Johns Hopkins University.

“There seems to be a protective effect on asthma of non-allergen dog-associated exposures, and a harmful effect of allergen exposure. However, dog allergen exposure remains a major concern for kids who are allergic to dogs,” Tsou said in a statement.

Dr. Craig Osleeb is a pediatric allergist and immunologist at Northern Westchester Medical Center in Mount Kisco, N.Y. He reviewed both studies and said the research left a lot of questions unanswered.

Osleeb noted that the kids with higher exposure to the dog allergen proteins were the ones that tended to have more symptoms. He said isolating those proteins that caused worse symptoms might be a way to help families with asthmatic children find dogs that may help asthma rather than make it worse, though it’s too soon to tell yet.

Tsou’s study found no protective effect from exposure to cats. The research also didn’t find a benefit from exposure to other common allergens such as dust mites or cockroaches.

Cheema said it’s too soon to say whether or not people should try to increase exposure to dogs to keep allergic diseases at bay.

“I wouldn’t tell anyone to go get a dog. It can be a dangerous thing if people have severe allergies and asthma,” she noted.

But for parents who already have a dog in the home, “it’s definitely fair to say that this and other research has shown that a dog may be protective,” she added.

Cheema said the current theory is that having a dog may expose children to substances that affect their microbiome — the natural mix of bacteria found in the gut.

Both studies were to be presented Friday at the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology’s annual meeting, in Boston. Findings presented at meetings are typically viewed as preliminary until they’ve been published in a peer-reviewed journal.

By Serena Gordon    HealthDay Reporter    FRIDAY, Oct. 27, 2017
SOURCES: Gagandeep Cheema, M.D., allergy and immunology fellow, Henry Ford Hospital, Detroit; Craig Osleeb, M.D., pediatric allergist and immunologist, Northern Westchester Medical Center, Mount Kisco, N.Y.; Oct. 27, 2017, presentation, American College of Asthma, Allergy and Immunology meeting, Boston
source: www.webmd.com    WebMD News from HealthDay


Leave a comment

The Meds That Up Your Heart Attack Risk By 60%

By MARYGRACE TAYLOR    NOVEMBER 17, 2014

If you’ve got asthma severe enough to need daily controller medication, you may be at a higher risk of having a heart attack, according to new findings presented at the American Heart Association’s annual meeting.

For nine years, researchers followed nearly 7,000 adults, including 156 asthma patients who used daily controller meds and 511 who were asthmatic but not on controller meds. Compared to non-asthmatics, asthmatics who took controller meds were 60% more likely to suffer from a cardiovascular event like a heart attack or stroke, even after accounting for other heart disease risk factors like age, smoking, high blood pressure, or high cholesterol.

asthma

It’s hard to say for sure what drives this increased risk, but both conditions share an inflammatory basis, says Matthew Tattersall, DO, study author and assistant professor of medicine at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Medicine and Public Health. Still, Tattersall and his team don’t yet know if people who take daily controller meds have more severe uncontrolled asthma that in turn causes more severe inflammation, or if the increased risk is related to the controller meds themselves or another factor altogether.

One thing they do know? If you have asthma so bad that you rely on controller meds to manage it, be extra vigilant about keeping your ticker in tiptop shape. “Focus on the things that we know can prevent heart disease,” Tattersall says. That means eating right, getting plenty of exercise, keeping stress under control, and—as if we even need to say it—don’t even think about smoking.


1 Comment

Gut Bacteria Tied to Asthma Risk in Kids

Study suggests that antibiotics in infancy might also play a role

WebMD News from HealthDay      By Steven Reinberg      HealthDay Reporter

WEDNESDAY, Sept. 30, 2015 (HealthDay News) – The presence of four types of gut bacteria in infancy may reduce a child’s risk for asthma, Canadian researchers report.

Most infants get these bacteria naturally from the environment. But some babies are given antibiotics that kill these bacteria, and some are not exposed to them for various reasons, the researchers said.

“We now have particular markers that seem to predict asthma later in life,” lead researcher Brett Finlay, a professor of microbiology and immunology at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, said during a news conference Tuesday.

“These findings indicate that bacteria that live in and on us may have a role in asthma,” he said. This seems to happen by 3 months of age in ways that still aren’t clear.

Coming into contact with environmental bacteria, such as by living on a farm or having pets, appears to decrease asthma risk, Finlay said.

Asthma, which has increased dramatically since the 1950s, affects up to 20 percent of children in western countries, according to the researchers. “Ironically, it has not increased in developing countries,” Finlay said.

It’s possible that people in these less-developed countries are exposed to more helpful bacteria and other microbes, he said. This is the so-called “hygiene hypothesis,” which says environments that are too clean may actually impede development of the immune system.

The new report was published Sept. 30 online in the journal Science Translational Medicine.

For the study, Finlay and colleagues looked for four types of bacteria in stool samples of 319 infants at 3 months of age. The bacteria are called FLVR (Faecalibacterium, Lachnospira, Veillonella and Rothia).

The researchers found that 22 children with low levels of these bacteria at age 3 months also had low levels at age 1 year.

These 22 children are at the highest risk of developing asthma, and eight have been diagnosed with the respiratory disease so far, the researchers said.

baby

Study co-author Dr. Stuart Turvey, professor of pediatric immunology at the University of British Columbia, said at the news conference that it’s “not surprising how important early life is.”

In the first 100 days of life, gut makeup influences the immune response that causes or protects kids from asthma, he said.

Testing for these bacteria in infants might help identify children who have a high risk of developing asthma, Turvey said. “These children could be followed and treated more quickly if they end up with asthma,” he said.

While the study found a connection between gut bacteria and asthma risk in children, it did not prove cause and effect.

Whether giving kids probiotics — good bacteria — might reduce asthma risk isn’t known, the researchers said. Turvey said the probiotics available in over-the-counter forms do not include the four bacteria identified in this study.

“Studies like ours are identifying specific bacteria combinations that seem to be missing in the children at the highest risk of asthma,” he said. “The long-term goal is to see if we could offer these bacteria back, not the general nonspecific probiotics.”

Finlay said these findings need to be replicated in larger groups and in different populations. He said the researchers also want to know if all four bacteria are protective, or just one or two.

“There could be other microbes that have a similar function, but we don’t know that yet,” Finlay said.

Turvey cautioned that treatment with bacteria is a long way off. “We are not ready for that yet,” he said. “We know very little about these bacteria, but we are working to see if that might be a safe option to prevent this disease.”

Dr. Maria Franco, a pediatric pulmonologist at Nicklaus Children’s Hospital in Miami, had this to say: “The finding shows how our immune system in the first three months actually changes things in life for the long term.”

It’s still not known how these bacteria get into the gut, Franco said. “But it shows how something so natural can make a big difference in a child’s life,” she said.

SOURCES: Maria Franco, M.D., pediatric pulmonologist, Nicklaus Children’s Hospital, Miami, Fla.; Sept. 29, 2015, news conference with: Brett Finlay, Ph.D., professor, microbiology and immunology and biochemistry and molecular biology; Stuart Turvey, M.D., professor, pediatric immunology, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada; Sept. 30, 2015, Science Translational Medicine, online

source: WebMD HealthDay 


Leave a comment

Major asthma breakthrough as scientists discover root cause of the condition – and say a new treatment is less than 5 years away

  • Newly identified protein in the airways thought to trigger all asthma attacks
  • Drug already exists which scientists believe could deactivate the protein
  • Human trials could begin in as little as two years, helping millions

Scientists have found a protein within the airways which they believe triggers all asthma attacks

Scientists claim to have found the root cause of asthma, a breakthrough which could pave the way for a new treatment within five years.

Most of the millions of asthma sufferers are able to regulate their symptoms with inhalers, but a minority – about 5 per cent of patients – do not respond to any treatment.

Now scientists have found a protein within the airways which they believe triggers all asthma attacks.

Remarkably, a drug already exists which they think could deactivate the protein, raising hopes for a treatment which may be effective for any asthma patient.

The team, led by Cardiff University, has already shown that the drug works in mice and in human tissue samples in the laboratory.

They have now designed the first clinical trials, which could start within two years.

Lead investigator Professor Daniela Riccardi said: ‘Our findings are incredibly exciting.’

The discovery came quite by chance when Professor Riccardi, formerly a bones specialist, switched from the study of osteoporosis to the study of the lungs five years ago.

She realised that a protein that triggers the growth of calcium within bones also plays a role in the airways.

Further tests revealed that asthmatics had far higher levels of the protein – called a calcium sensing receptor or CaSR – than healthy people.

When an asthmatic breathes in triggers such as dust, smoke, or pollen, the CaSR molecules cause the rapid increase of calcium within the cells of the lung tissue.

asthma

The added calcium makes the cells contract, making the airways spasm, triggering an asthma attack.

Professor Riccardi said: ‘For the first time we have found a link between airways inflammation, which can be caused by environmental triggers – such as allergens, cigarette smoke and car fumes – and airways twitchiness in allergic asthma.

‘It makes the cells much more sensitive to the asthma triggers – which then make an attack much more likely.’

A drug already exists that can disable the CaSR protein, meaning it could be available to patients as soon as clinical trials are complete.

The medication – called a calcilytic – was developed 15 years ago to knock out the same protein in osteoporosis.

Although the drug was shown to be safe, it was not effective for osteoporosis patients.

But early tests in mice and human tissue showed promising results as an asthma treatment.

The team, which included scientists from King’s College London and the Mayo Clinic in the US, hope to use the drug in a nebuliser, in which it is turned into a mist and breathed straight into the lungs.

When an asthmatic breathes in triggers such as dust, smoke, or pollen, the newly-identified protein causes the rapid increase of calcium within the cells of the lung tissue. This makes the cells contract and the ing the airways spasm, triggering an asthma attack

When an asthmatic breathes in triggers such as dust, smoke, or pollen, the newly-identified protein causes the rapid increase of calcium within the cells of the lung tissue. This makes the cells contract and the ing the airways spasm, triggering an asthma attack

A few courses of treatment would be enough to stop asthma attacks from recurring, they hope.

The suspect it might also have a role in tackling chronic obstructive pulmonary disease – COPD – and chronic bronchitis, for which there is currently no effective treatment.

Prof Riccardi said: ‘If we can prove that calcilytics are safe when administered directly to the lung in people, then in five years we could be in a position to treat patients and potentially stop asthma from happening in the first place.’

Dr Samantha Walker, director of research at Asthma UK, who helped fund the research, added: ‘This hugely exciting discovery enables us, for the first time, to tackle the underlying causes of asthma symptoms.

‘Five per cent of people with asthma don’t respond to current treatments so research breakthroughs could be life changing for hundreds of thousands of people.

‘If this research proves successful we may be just a few years away from a new treatment for asthma, and we urgently need further investment to take it further through clinical trials.

‘Asthma research is chronically underfunded; there have only been a handful of new treatments developed in the last 50 years so the importance of investment in research like this is absolutely essential.’

By BEN SPENCER, SCIENCE REPORTER FOR THE DAILY MAIL     April 2015


Leave a comment

Top 5 Foods For Natural Asthma Relief

Nearly 25 million Americans suffer from asthma and it is the most common chronic condition among children. Conventional treatments include steroids and asthma inhalers which can have nasty side effects. Here are some natural foods to ease symptoms.

According to the Asthma And Allergy Foundation of America, asthma accounts for one-quarter of all emergency room visits in the U.S. each year, with 1.75 million visits. In addition it accounts for over 10 million out-patient visits and just under half a million hospitalizations each year.

These figures are staggering and the annual cost of asthma to our economy is estimated to be nearly $18 billion as a result of medical treatment and loss of earnings due to illness or death (i).

It is estimated that 300 million people worldwide suffer from asthma and approximately 250,000 deaths related to the disease occur annually. By the year 2025, it’s believed that the number will grow by another 100 million or more (ii).

The usual symptoms are shortness of breath and wheezing. Prescribed medications cost the economy millions and can take a toll on our health as they can have many unwanted side effects.

Fresh organic fruits and vegetables will always be beneficial to our bodies and their function. These natural foods are rich sources of antioxidants, such as beta carotene and vitamins C and E, which can help reduce lung swelling, chest tightness and inflammation caused by cell-damaging chemicals known as free radicals.

Here are five of the most beneficial:

1. BANANAS

Research has shown that children who ate a banana each day had a 34% lower chance of going on to develop asthmatic symptoms such as wheezing. Bananas are one of the best sources of pyridoxine, commonly known as vitamin B6. Pyridoxine goes on to produce compounds which been shown to help relax bronchial muscle tissue.

Kids love bananas and they can be added to cereals, smoothies or just eaten from their skin for a nutritious and energy giving health boost.

The 5 Most Prominent Minerals In The Body and Their Use

2. AVOCADOS

Avocados contain a substance called glutathione which is known to protect cell damage from free radicals. It also works to detoxify the body of pollutants which can lead to breathing problems. They are also a rich source of vitamin E. Avocados can help in stabilizing blood sugar levels, improving cardiovascular health and protect the eyes against age related degeneration.

They are a powerhouse of nutrients and are a fantastic addition to a salad or added to a smoothie, or again eaten straight from the skin.

3. GARLIC

Garlic is another super-food as it has so many health benefits, including maintaining cardiovascular health, preventing cancer, and reducing high blood pressure. It is beneficial for asthma sufferers due to the high levels of vitamin C and it’s powerful antioxidant properties. Vitamin C neutralizes free radicals, unstable molecules that cause contraction of airway smooth muscles in asthma patients.

Raw garlic reduces the amount of histamines produced in the body so easing any allergic reactions in asthmatics which normally promote inflammation.

Garlic can also boost the ability of the body to create prostacyclins. These are lipid molecules that help keep the air passages of the lungs open and thus promote easy breathing in asthma sufferers.

4. SUNFLOWER SEEDS

Asthmas patients will benefit from eating sunflower seeds on a regular basis. They are packed full of nutrients including potassium, magnesium and vitamin E. In addition one cup contains a third of the daily recommended amount of selenium which is a mineral linked with a whole raft of health benefits but in particular is known to help individuals that struggle with asthma by reducing the various symptoms such as shortness of breath and wheezing.

Sunflower seeds are relatively calorific but eating these mild nutty seeds in small amounts regularly will help keep healthy lungs and airways.

5. PARSLEY

Parsley loosens phlegm and will help rid the airways of a build up of mucus. Eating parsley can relieve any tightness across the chest muscles and soothe sore throats that can be aggravated by coughing bouts when the mucus has been expelled.

It is a tasty herb versatile enough to use in many dishes or added to a juice or smoothie. Parsley leaf can also be made into a herbal tea.

These are just some of the natural treatments for asthma which can provide relief without over-reliance on chemical packed inhalers and steroid treatments. However, consult your health practitioner before stopping conventional treatment.

SOURCES

(i) http://www.aafa.org/display.cfm?id=9&sub=42
(ii) http://www.aaaai.org/about-the-aaaai/newsroom/asthma-statistics.aspx


Leave a comment

Smoke-free laws linked to drop in child asthma attacks

LONDON    Mon Jan 21, 2013 

(Reuters) – Introducing laws banning smoking in enclosed public places can lead to swift and dramatic falls in the number of children admitted to hospital suffering asthma attacks, according to a study in England published on Monday.

Researchers at Imperial College London found there was a 12.3 percent fall in hospital admissions for childhood asthma in the first year after laws against smoking in enclosed public places and workplaces came into effect in July 2007.

Similar anti-smoking legislation has been introduced in many other countries, including in the United States where it has also been linked to a reduction in childhood asthma emergencies.

“The findings are good news … and they should encourage countries where public smoking is permitted to consider introducing similar legislation,” said Christopher Millett from Imperial’s school of public health, who led the study.

Asthma affects more than 300 million people worldwide and is the world’s most common children’s chronic illness. Symptoms include wheezing, shortness of breath, coughing and chest tightness. In Britain, it affects one in every 11 children.


Before the ban on smoking in enclosed public spaces was implemented in England, hospital admissions for children suffering a severe asthma attacks were increasing by 2.2 percent a year, peaking at 26,969 in 2006/2007, the researchers found.

That trend reversed immediately after the law came into effect, with lower admission rates among boys and girls of all ages. There were similar reductions among children in wealthy and poor neighborhoods, both in cities and in rural areas.

The effect was equivalent to 6,802 fewer hospital admissions in the first three years after the law came into effect, the team wrote in a study in the journal Pediatrics.

“There is already evidence that eliminating smoking from public places has resulted in substantial population health benefits … and this study shows that those benefits extend to … childhood asthma,” Millett said in a statement.

A study published in 2009 also found the ban on smoking in public places in England led to a swift and significant drop in the number of heart attacks, saving the national health service 8.4 million pounds ($13.3 million) in the first year.

“Previous studies have also suggested that the smoke-free law changed people’s attitudes about exposing others to second-hand smoke and led more people to abstain from smoking voluntarily at home and in cars,” Millett said.

(Reporting by Kate Kelland; Editing by Louise Ireland)

Source: Reuters


Leave a comment

Fast food linked to higher asthma and allergy risk

New study links fast-food consumption to a greater risk for developing asthma, eczema and allergies.

Tue, Jan 15 2013

Teens and kids who eat a lot of fast food may be at greater risk for developing asthma,eczema and allergies, according to a new study published in the British Medical Journal’s respiratory magazine, Thorax.
For the study, researchers from the University of Auckland in New Zealand and the University of Nottingham in the United Kingdom looked at surveys from more than 500,000 kids in 51 countries to determine how diet affected their allergy-related risks. They found that eating fast food three times a week may lead to asthma, eczema and itchy, watery eyes in children.
  

 

Researchers surveyed kids and their parents to determine whether or not they experienced symptoms of allergies, asthma and eczema. Participants also shared what types of foods they consumed each week. In the study, children in their early teens who ate fast food three or more times each week had a 39 percent greater risk of severe asthma. For 6- and 7-year-olds, there was a 27 percent increased risk. Overall, kids who ate fast food three or more times a week had about a 30 percent increased risk of severe allergies. The results were consistent across all age groups regardless of gender or socioeconomic status.  
Interestingly, kids who ate fruit were able to cut their risk of developing these conditions. Researchers found that kids who ate three or more portions of fruit each week reduced their risk of severe asthma, eczema and allergies by between 11 and 14 percent.

source: mnn.com


Leave a comment

Stricter smoking bans tied to more health benefits

Hospitalizations for heart, stroke and asthma ailments decreased after smoking bans introduced

CBC News Posted: Nov 2, 2012

Smoking bans in workplaces were associated with fewer deaths and hospitalizations due to heart attacks, strokes and respiratory diseases, a new review finds.

The introduction of smoke-free laws were followed by a 15 per cent decrease in hospitalizations for heart attacks, a 16 per cent decrease in stroke hospitalizations and a 24 per cent decrease in hospitalizations for diseases such as asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

More comprehensive smoke-free laws that covered workplaces, restaurants and bars were associated with larger declines, the researchers said after reviewing 43 studies on smoke-free laws in U.S. cities and states as well as countries ranging from Uruguay to New Zealand.

“The study provides strong evidence not only of the health benefits of smokefree laws but also of the need to enact comprehensive laws without exceptions,” Stanton Glantz, the study’s senior author and director of the Center for Tobacco Control Research and Education at the University of California, San Francisco and his co-authors concluded in this week’s issue of the journal Circulation.

smoking

Passing smoke-free laws reflect changes in social norms that reduce smoking behaviour, they said.

Previous studies also found smoke-free laws were followed by decreases in hospital admissions for heart attacks and other heart problems.

The researchers cautioned that a cause-and-effect relationship can’t be drawn from studies comparing health effects before and after the introduction of smoking bans.

But one study in Helena, Mont. did observe a rebound in heart attack admissions after the city suspended its smoke-free law during a lawsuit, which supports a causal link, they said.

Glantz’s research was funded by the U.S. National Cancer Institute.

Another study published this week in the journal Archives of Internal Medicine also found a 33 per cent decline in heart attacks when they compared the incidence 18 months before and after the introduction of smoke-free laws in workplaces, including bars, in one county in Minnesota.

Smoke-free laws are also associated with fewer hospital admissions for asthma in children and improved quality of life, the editors of a journal commentary accompanying the Minnesota study said.

“Moving forward, we should prioritize the enforcement of smoke-free policies, eliminating loopholes in existing policies as well as encouraging expansion of smoke-free policies to include multiunit housing, motor vehicles, casinos and outdoor locations,” wrote Dr. Sara Kalkhoran and Dr. Pamela Ling of the University of California, San Francisco.

source: CBC


Leave a comment

Stricter smoking bans tied to more health benefits

Hospitalizations for heart, stroke and asthma ailments decreased after smoking bans introduced

CBC News Posted: Nov 2, 2012

Smoking bans in workplaces were associated with fewer deaths and hospitalizations due to heart attacks, strokes and respiratory diseases, a new review finds.

The introduction of smoke-free laws were followed by a 15 per cent decrease in hospitalizations for heart attacks, a 16 per cent decrease in stroke hospitalizations and a 24 per cent decrease in hospitalizations for diseases such as asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

More comprehensive smoke-free laws that covered workplaces, restaurants and bars were associated with larger declines, the researchers said after reviewing 43 studies on smoke-free laws in U.S. cities and states as well as countries ranging from Uruguay to New Zealand.

“The study provides strong evidence not only of the health benefits of smokefree laws but also of the need to enact comprehensive laws without exceptions,” Stanton Glantz, the study’s senior author and director of the Center for Tobacco Control Research and Education at the University of California, San Francisco and his co-authors concluded in this week’s issue of the journal Circulation.

Passing smoke-free laws reflect changes in social norms that reduce smoking behaviour, they said.

Previous studies also found smoke-free laws were followed by decreases in hospital admissions for heart attacks and other heart problems.

The researchers cautioned that a cause-and-effect relationship can’t be drawn from studies comparing health effects before and after the introduction of smoking bans.

But one study in Helena, Mont. did observe a rebound in heart attack admissions after the city suspended its smoke-free law during a lawsuit, which supports a causal link, they said.

Glantz’s research was funded by the U.S. National Cancer Institute.

Another study published this week in the journal Archives of Internal Medicine also found a 33 per cent decline in heart attacks when they compared the incidence 18 months before and after the introduction of smoke-free laws in workplaces, including bars, in one county in Minnesota.

Smoke-free laws are also associated with fewer hospital admissions for asthma in children and improved quality of life, the editors of a journal commentary accompanying the Minnesota study said.

“Moving forward, we should prioritize the enforcement of smoke-free policies, eliminating loopholes in existing policies as well as encouraging expansion of smoke-free policies to include multiunit housing, motor vehicles, casinos and outdoor locations,” wrote Dr. Sara Kalkhoran and Dr. Pamela Ling of the University of California, San Francisco.

source: CBC


Leave a comment

Study suggests timing may be key in fish-asthma link

By Andrew M. Seaman

NEW YORK | Tue Nov 13, 2012 4:50pm EST

(Reuters Health) – Among thousands of Dutch children included in a new study, those who first ate fish between the ages of six months and one year had a lower risk of developing asthma-like symptoms later on than babies introduced to fish before six months of age or after their first birthdays.

According to lead author Jessica Kiefte-de Jong, of the Erasmus Medical Center in Rotterdam, and her colleagues, one theory supported by the findings is that that early exposure to certain fatty acids in fish protects against the development of asthma.

The new results, based on more than 7,000 kids in The Netherlands, cannot prove that eating fish during a particular period in infancy prevented wheezing later on, but they add to other research that suggests a connection.

“The bottom line was that there is mixed evidence of whether the introduction of a seafood diet reduced the risk of asthma,” said Dr. T. Bernard Kinane, chief of the pediatric pulmonary unit for MassGeneral Hospital for Children in Boston, who was not involved in the new study.

Concern over seafood allergies prompts some parents and doctors to delay introducing fish into babies’ diets. However, some research has found that a mother’s fish consumption during pregnancy, or the baby’s consumption of it early on, may lower asthma risk.

To see whether the timing of a baby’s first encounter with fish was linked to differences in asthma rates later in childhood, Kiefte-de Jong’s team built on previous studies.

Using health and diet information from a group of 7,210 children born between 2002 and 2006 in Rotterdam, they found that 1,281 children ate fish in their first six months of life, 5,498 first ate fish in the next six months and 431 did not eat fish until after age one.

The researchers then looked at health records for when the children were about four years old, and how many parents reported that their kids were wheezing or short of breath.

Between 40 percent and 45 percent of parents of children who did not eat fish until after their first birthday said their kids wheezed, compared to 30 percent of kids who first ate fish when they were between six and 12 months old.

That, according to the researchers, works out to be about a 36 percent decreased risk of wheezing for the kids who first had fish between ages six months and one year.

Kids who first had fish before six months of age were at similar risk to those who were introduced to it after their first birthdays.

There was no significant association between the timing of fish introduction and shortness of breath.

“They found it was only protective between six and 12 months. That would make reasonable sense because that’s when the immune system is getting educated,” Kinane said.

He added that he was relieved the researchers also found no association between the amount of fish kids ate and their risk for asthma symptoms, which means that even a small amount of fish seems to be helpful.

“The reason I like that is that it reduces the risk of kids getting too much mercury,” said Kinane.

Although Kinane said introducing children to fish between six and 12 months of age may be worth doing, he noted the possibility that there could be other explanations for the finding.

For instance, families who feed their children fish earlier and more often may be different in a variety of ways from those who do not.

“I thought it was an OK study, but I think it needs to be validated again,” Kinane said.

SOURCE: bit.ly/X4kl8E Pediatrics, online November 12, 2012         reuters.com