SCOTT SIMON, HOST:
It's long been known that air pollution can influence the risk of asthma in children. Now there's emerging evidence diet can, too. NPR's Allison Aubrey reports on a new study from Johns Hopkins University that finds certain types of foods are linked to a decrease in asthma symptoms.
ALLISON AUBREY, BYLINE: Maybe you've heard that expression that fish is brain food. Well, it turns out that fish might be good for the lungs, too. All those omega-3 fatty acids found in oily fish, they work in a fascinating way in our bodies. Emily Brigham is a pulmonologist at Johns Hopkins. She says as we break down these omega-3s molecules known as pro-resolving mediators are produced.
EMILY BRIGHAM: And what they do is that when there's an area of inflammation or when there's inflammation in the body, these molecules help to resolve that inflammation.
AUBREY: Given this effect, Brigham and her colleagues were curious. They studied a group of 135 kids in Baltimore with asthma. Many of them were exposed to high levels of indoor pollution, which can trigger or worsen symptoms. Now, during a six-month study, they found that higher consumption of omega-3s seemed to reduce the effects of air pollution on their symptoms.
BRIGHAM: Meaning that kids who were eating a higher level of omega-3 had fewer symptoms than kids that were eating a lower level of omega-3.
AUBREY: So omega-3s appear to be beneficial, but another group of fatty acids, omega-6s, seem to have the opposite effect. Omega-6s they're found in lots of processed foods that contain corn oil and other vegetable oils. And some of their byproducts are pro-inflammatory. Brigham says the results are preliminary, but they're not too surprising.
BRIGHAM: We know that asthma is a disease that's driven by inflammation and that that inflammation occurs primarily at the level of the lung.
AUBREY: So if diet can help reduce that inflammation, Brigham says it could be a good way to help kids prone to asthma maintain good health. Allison Aubrey, NPR News.
NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.