Although laboratory studies suggest that long-chain n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (LCn3PUFAs) may reduce risk of asthma, epidemiological data remain controversial and inconclusive. We quantitatively reviewed the epidemiological studies published through December 2012 in PubMed and EMBASE by using a fixed-effects or random-effects model. Eleven studies, comprised of 99,093 individuals (3,226 cases), were included in the final dataset. Of them, 7 studies examined associations between intake of fish or LCn3PUFA and risk of asthma: 4 studies in children (996 cases from 12,481 children) and 3 in adults (1,311 cases from 82,553 individuals). Two studies (69 cases from 276 infants) investigated LCn3PUFA levels in mothers' milk, and two studies assessed maternal fish consumption (786 cases from 2,832 individuals) during lactation and/or plasma LCn3PUFA levels during pregnancy (64 cases from 951 infants) in relation to offspring's asthma. The pooled relative risk of child asthma were 0.76 (95% CI, 0.61-0.94) for fish consumption and 0.71 (95% CI, 0.52-0.96) for LCn3PUFA intake. No statistically significant association was found in studies among adults. Epidemiological data to date indicate that fish or LCn3PUFA intake may be beneficial to prevent asthma in children. Further studies are needed to establish causal inference and to elucidate the potential mechanisms.
Institute of Toxicology, Third Military Medical University, Chongqing, China ; Department of Epidemiology, Gillings School of Global Public Health, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, North Carolina, United States of America ; Department of Nutrition, Gillings School of Global Public Health and School of Medicine, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, North Carolina, United States of America ; Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics, School of Public Health, Indiana University, Bloomington, Indiana, United States of America.,