Omega-3 may improve asthma in kids, but omega-6 could make it worse

Two commonly known fatty acids, omega-3 and omega-6, may have opposite effects on asthma in children, according to a new study. Though a diet high in omega-3 fatty acids was associated with reduced symptoms and lowered asthma severity when asthmatic kids were exposed to indoor air pollution, kids with diets higher in omega-6 had more severe responses to the same problematic environments.

Though many people have often heard about omega-3 and omega-6 due to their frequent inclusion in popular dieting protocols, few realize the difference between the two. Omega-3 fatty acids have been associated with a reduction in inflammation, whereas omega-6 can potentially increase inflammation, though there's controversy around that claim.

The modern Western diet often contains too much omega-6 and not enough omega-3 — the former is mostly found in vegetable and coin oils, whereas the latter is found in fish, select seeds and nuts, soybeans, and other foods usually considered healthy. A diet where omega-6 is more prevalent than omega-3 may pave the way for some health issues.

According to a study recently published in an American Thoracic Society journal, diets high in omega-3 were linked to reduced asthma symptoms and severity. Asthma is an inflammation disease that makes it difficult to breathe when airways are inflamed, which causes them to become narrower.

On the other hand, kids whose diets were higher in omega-6 were found to have worse asthma symptoms and overall severity when exposed to indoor particulate pollution. The study involved 135 kids ages 5 to 12, all of whom had asthma of varying severity. It should be noted that the study was observational and relied on self-reported dietary information, meaning other potential factors weren't ruled out.