Why eating fish could help ease this common Aussie health problem

Posted by Anthea England on | Tags: Nutrition

Are you one of the 2.7 million Australians who suffer from asthma? A new study suggests eating fish may help you breathe easier. 

Research from James Cook University found that eating certain types of omega-3s (also known as n-3) from fish may reduce your risk of asthma. “We found that certain types of n-3 (from marine oils) were significantly associated with a decreased risk of having asthma or asthma-like symptoms by up to 62%, while high n-6 consumption (from vegetable oils) was associated with an increased risk by up to 67%,” said study author Professor Andreas Lopata.

Asthma incidence has nearly doubled in the last 30 years and the researchers reckon our changing diet may be one of the culprits. “There is an increasing consumption of what is known as the n-6 Polyunsaturated Fatty Acid (PUFA) found in vegetable oils and a decline in consumption of n-3 PUFA, which is mainly found in marine oils,” said Lopata. “Crudely, there has been a global move from fresh fish to fast food,” he said.

While vegetable and canola oils are marketed as the “healthy” choice, they're often far from that – they’re chemically processed and high in omega-6 fatty acids. It’s important to note that omega-6s are an essential part of a healthy diet. However, they need to be balanced out by omega-3s, which we typically don’t get enough of. Our Western diets are characterised by too many omega-6s relative to omega-3s, which may cause chronic inflammation. This is because vegetable and seed oils aren’t just used for cooking – they’re in many processed foods, including biscuits, cereals and sauces, as well as fast food.

However, if you’re looking to balance out your omega-6 intake, the type of fish does matter. Oily, fatty fish like salmon, trout, tuna and sardines are high in omega-3s, compared to “white fish” like snapper and ling. White fish still have plenty of health benefits, however they tend to be much lower in omega-3s when compared to their oily counterparts.

There is mounting research that suggests bumping up oily fish intake could help in the fight against asthma. A separate Australian clinical trial last year found that eating fish such as salmon, trout and sardines as part of a healthy diet can reduce asthma symptoms in kids.

The La Trobe University study found that kids with asthma who followed a healthy Mediterranean diet, that included two serves of fatty fish a week, had improved lung function after six months. “Fatty fish is high in omega-3 fatty acids which have anti-inflammatory properties,” said lead researcher Maria Papamichael. “Our study shows eating fish just twice a week can significantly decrease lung inflammation in children with asthma.”

Of course, if you are suffering from asthma or are having respiratory issues – your first port of call should always be your doctor. Always advise your doctor about any dietary changes or increase in omega 3 intake as it could affect medication.

Ultimately, adding a few serves of fish into your diet can be beneficial, whether you’re one of the 1 in 9 Aussies who suffers from asthma or not. Keen to bump up your intake? Try mixing in a can of tuna into your salad, adding smoked salmon to your brekkie or you can add our fresh ready made teriyaki salmon to your next THR1VE order. This jerk fish recipe is also delicious! 

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