Fatty acids can be harmful.

, medical expert
Last reviewed: 16.04.2020

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19 August 2019, 09:00

Omega-6 polyunsaturated fatty acids have always been considered very useful organic compounds, which must necessarily enrich the diet. But, as it turned out, they are not useful for everyone - for example, for asthmatic children their use is undesirable. This is the conclusion made by researchers led by Professor Emily Brigham, representing Johns Hopkins University.

The omega-6 polyunsaturated fatty acids present in marine fish, soy, seeds and nuts have always been considered very beneficial for the human body, as they tend to inhibit the activity of inflammatory reactions. Fatty acids from vegetable oils have a complex effect, and in some cases can, on the contrary, potentiate the growth of the inflammatory process. In the United States and many other parts of the world, people adhere to nutritional principles that, to put it mildly, do not comply with the recommendations of health officials. This may mean that their diet contains a relatively small amount of omega-3 with large volumes of omega-6.

Since children with diagnosed asthma are  initially prone to inflammatory reactions and respiratory problems, experts decided to observe whether fatty acids are able to affect the course of the pathology and clinical picture, taking into account the polluted atmosphere of a large settlement. An experiment was conducted in which 135 small patients in the age range of five to twelve years with asthma took part. About 96% of them were from the United States. Boys and girls were approximately equally represented. All patients were diagnosed with some kind of asthmatic course (from mild to severe).

Specialists have collected all the necessary information about the nutritional characteristics of these children, about the most common symptoms and medications taken. Measurements were also taken of the level of pollution of places of residence with specific solid particles playing the role of triggers of asthma and amplifiers of asthmatic symptoms.

According to the results of the work, it was found that the increased content of omega-6 fatty acids in the children's diet correlates with a high level of neutrophils. This refers to the type of white blood cells released in response to the development of an inflammatory reaction. Since omega-6 directly cannot cause an increase in the number of neutrophils, this process can be explained by excessive air pollution. In this case, fatty acids stimulate the inflammatory response and strengthen it.

The results of the study are quite negative, but experts are in no hurry to recommend limiting the use of polyunsaturated fatty acids, since the work was carried out with some limitations. Experts insist on carrying out additional research in this matter.

Full information about the project was presented in the publication of the American journal Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine.

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