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This study found a negative association between asthma in children and the intake of docosahexaenoic acid in the diet, particularly in male children between 5 and 12 years of age with a history of maternal smoking during the gestation period. 

The development of childhood asthma involves behavioral, genetic, and environmental changes. Polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA) present in the diet play a significant role in the risk of asthma. Studies have pointed out the beneficial role of dietary PUFAs in resolving inflammation and decreasing the incidence of asthma. 

This study investigated the relationship between dietary intake of PUFA and asthma in children 2–12 years of age. The findings are published in the Journal of Health, Population, and Nutrition.

Participant Characteristics

A total of 14,727 participants from the United States National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) database were included in this study, with 2265 and 12,462 participants in the asthma and non-asthma groups, respectively. The mean age of the participants was 7.11 ± 0.04 years. The asthma prevalence in the study was approximately 15.38%. Children with asthma were more likely to be older, of male gender, have a lower maternal age, a higher weight and standing height, higher energy intake, higher total fat, higher body mass index (BMI), and a lower family poverty income ratio (PIR).

Association of Asthma With Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids

The dietary intake of docosahexaenoic acid was related to lower odds of childhood asthma in the study population. The analysis results also indicated an association between dietary intake of omega-3 PUFAs and eicosapentaenoic acid and lower odds of childhood asthma.

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Risk Stratification of Childhood Asthma

The authors conducted a subgroup analysis of maternal smoking during pregnancy, age, and gender of participants to further investigate the relationship between asthma in childhood and dietary intake of PUFA. The analysis results indicated that decreased odds of childhood asthma were related to dietary intake of docosahexaenoic acid, male gender, 7–12 years of age, and history of maternal smoking during pregnancy.

Study Limitations

The cross-sectional study successfully demonstrated the association between PUFA dietary intake and the incidence of childhood asthma in a large pool of participants. However, the study failed to identify a causal relationship between PUFA intake and the development of asthma in childhood. The study did not explore the relationship between long-term dietary changes and childhood asthma, nor did the study employ testing modalities for diagnosing asthma. Future studies should further explore the role of dietary PUFA intake in childhood asthma incidence.


Liu, G., Ye, H. H., Qian, C., Zhao, J., Ma, C., & Jie, H. (2023). The association of polyunsaturated fatty acids and asthma: a cross-sectional study. Journal of Health Population and Nutrition, 42(1). https://doi.org/10.1186/s41043-023-00435-w