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When moms had low levels of a specific type of vitamin E measured right after birth, their children were more likely to develop wheezing and to have been treated with asthma medications in their first two years of life, the study found.
"The major sources of vitamin E are oils" such as sunflower, safflower, corn, soy and canola oils, study lead author Dr. Cosby Stone said in a news release from the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology (AAAAI).
Stone said his team's previous research in mice had suggested the link between vitamin E and asthma. Stone is with Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville.
"We hypothesized that maternal vitamin E levels, reflecting levels that the fetus encounters during pregnancy," would affect how kids breathe, he said.
The study tracked the health of more than 650 children and their mothers for the children's first two years of life. The researchers also asked moms specifically about whether their kids had trouble breathing or used asthma medications.
The researchers found that kids who wheezed or needed asthma medications were more likely to have mothers who had lower levels vitamin E just after birth.
Specifically, they had lower levels of a substance found in vitamin E called alpha-tocopherol. Sunflower and safflower oils provide the highest levels of this substance, Stone said.
The study only found an association between vitamin E levels and asthma symptoms, however. It didn't show a cause-and-effect relationship.
The findings were scheduled to be presented Saturday at the AAAAI annual meeting, in Atlanta, and published simultaneously in a supplement of The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology.
-- Randy Dotinga
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