New European research has found that giving children fish or cod liver oil from around one year of age could help reduce the risk of eczema, wheezing and asthma later in childhood.
Carried out by researchers from St. Olavs Hospital and the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU) in Norway, the new study looked at data collected from more than 4,000 families to investigate the relationship between a mother's or child's fish intake from pregnancy to the first two years of life, and a child's risk of developing eczema, asthma and hay fever by age six.
The findings, published in the journal Nutrients, showed that among children who ate fish at least once a week from one year of age until age two, there was a 28 percent lower risk of eczema, a 40 percent lower risk of asthma, and a 34 percent lower risk of wheezing at six years of age.
Children who took cod liver oil at least four times per week were also more likely to have a lower risk of allergy-related conditions at age six.
However, the researchers found no consistent association between a mother's fish or cod liver oil intake and a child's risk of allergies.
The researchers concluded that children's fish intake in the first year of life should be increased to help protect against conditions such as eczema and asthma. Rates of the health conditions have increased significantly in Norway since the 1950s, a problem which has been linked to various lifestyle changes, including that the population as a whole is eating less fish.
"In line with previous meta-analyses of several studies, we found that consuming fish at the age of one year seems to reduce the risk of eczema, asthma and wheezing at the age of six. This is more significant than the mother's intake of fish and cod liver oil during pregnancy and breastfeeding or the child's intake at two years, which do not appear to have the same protective effect," commented associate professor and first author Torbjørn Øien.
"It seems that eating all types of fish provides a health benefit, not just fatty fish," added senior author Melanie Rae Simpson.