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 Sunflower oil may contribute to rise in child asth

Sunflower oil may contribute to rise in child asthma7/20/2001- Health conscious parents who choose sunflower oils, spreads andmargarines may be contributing to the asthma epidemic among youngchildren, a study suggests.Researchers have found that a diet high in polyunsaturated fats doublesthe risk of the lung disorder in pre-school children. But because a directlink between fat intake and asthma has not been confirmed, the authors ofthe study said parents should not change their children's diets.The same study of 1,000 children aged three to five also found thatbreastfeeding and large families protected against asthma.Asthma has reached epidemic proportions in Britain over the past fewdecades. One in seven children now suffers from the disorder.The rise in asthma since the 1960s has coincided with many changes inlifestyle and diet including the growth of central heating, fitted carpetsand double glazing. During the 1970s and 1980s sales of saturated animalfat such as butter and lard fell as more and more people turned topolyunsaturated spreads, margarines and oils.The team from the Royal Children's Hospital in Melbourne asked parents tocomplete a questionnaire, which included questions on diet, asthmadiagnosis, their child's medical history and the consumption of fat. Theywere also asked whether their child was breastfed.One in five of the children suffered from asthma. Polyunsaturated fats inmargarine, vegetable and sunflower oils accounted for 17 per cent of thecases studied.Breast-feeding and having three or more older siblings reduced the risk ofasthma. Having a parent with asthma doubled the risk. A seriousrespiratory infection before the age of two increased the risk by 93 percent.Polyunsaturated fats contain two types of fatty acids - omega-3 andomega-6. Omega-6 fatty acids, found in sunflower oil, increase the risk ofinflammation, which could increase the risk of asthma. But omega-3 fattyacids, found in fish, soya bean and flax, have an anti-inflammatoryeffect.Dr Michelle Haby, who reported the findings in the journal Thorax, said:"An increase in omega-6 means less omega-3 fatty acid, which inhibitsinflammation."But at this stage children should not be changing their diet. The studyonly showed an association between polyunsaturated fats and asthma. Wehave not shown that these fats cause asthma, nor do we know whetherchanging the diet will reduce the risk or severity of asthma."Dr Martyn Partridge, chief medical adviser at the National AsthmaCampaign, said more research was needed to establish why asthma wasincreasing."The new evidence in this paper that suggests a reduction inpolyunsaturated fats may also reduce the likelihood of developing asthmais helpful but we are still a long way from being able to say why thisdisease is becoming more common."- by NICOLE MARTIN

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