Asthma can be a terrifying condition that can severely limit a child’s naturally active energy. However, with proper preventative care and nutrition, many children with asthma lead active, full lives. Recently experts have turned their attention towards pumpkin seeds as a healthy snack that may double to prevent asthma flare-ups. Here’s what the science says about the secrets hidden inside pumpkin seeds.
Can Pumpkin Seeds Really Help With Asthma?
For decades researchers have been investigating which healthy foods serve to control asthma flare-ups. Inthe early 2000s, governmental research agencies began investigating if the health benefits of foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids—like pumpkin seeds—could be used to treat asthma.
The reason researchers are so keen on omega-3 fatty acids for controlling asthma flare-ups is because omega-3s have been proven to ease symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis. Like asthma, rheumatoid arthritis is characterized by swelling and inflammation. If omega-3 fatty acids help reduce pain caused by inflammation for rheumatoid arthritis patients, researchers hoped the same would be true for treating the constriction and inflammation that occurs in the bronchial tubes during an asthma attack.
Foods such as pumpkin seeds, ground flaxseed, fatty fish, soybeans and walnuts are natural sources of omega-3 fatty acids. These foods may also offer other health benefits such as promoting heart and brain health. Until recently, however, there have been very few research studies that have examined the real-world applications of pumpkin seeds for the treatment of asthma.
What Does the Research Say About Pumpkin Seeds and Asthma?
Pumpkin seeds contain a number of great nutrients in addition to omega-3 fatty acids, including fiber, antioxidants, zinc and protein. However, with regards to combatting asthma, omega-3 fatty acids are the only component of pumpkin seeds that researchers think may offer any benefit. However, over the years several studies have come to different conclusions about how beneficial pumpkin seeds actually are for treating asthma.
In 2002, researchers believed that adults and children suffering from asthma “may benefit from hydration and a diet low in sodium, omega-6 fatty acids, and transfatty acids, but high in omega-3 fatty acids …onions, and fruits and vegetables.” Since then, numerous studies have been conducted in the hopes of finding definitive proof of pumpkin seeds having providing any relief to kids and adults with asthma.
A study published in the medical journal Allergy & Asthma Proceedings in 2014 examined the entire body of existing research on the relationship between omega-3 fatty acids and asthma in children. Unfortunately, the study found the data inconclusive as prior studies offered mixed results; the researchers were hopeful, though, that future studies would find a link.
In response to the call for more research, Dr. John Brannan of the Firestone Institute for Respiratory Health in Canada led a randomized controlled trial to test the theory that omega-3 fatty acids relieve asthma symptoms. Twenty-three participants were randomly assigned to take an omega-3 fatty acid supplement or a placebo pill for three weeks. The researchers found no difference between the asthma symptoms of either group. Though this study shows that omega-3 fatty acids may not provide any short-term benefits for people suffering from asthma, no studies have yet examined the long-term effects.
Later, in 2015, researchers in India again examined all of the randomized controlled trials ever conducted on omega-3 fatty acids and childhood asthma and wheezing. The researchers reached the same conclusion as prior studies: that there is no evidence that proves omega-3 fatty acids to benefit individuals suffering from asthma specifically.
How Do I Know if Pumpkin Seeds Are Safe for My Child?
While the evidence shows that pumpkin seeds aren’t going to be a magical and nutritious treatment for asthma symptoms, no research indicates that consuming pumpkin seeds for their omega-3 fatty acids is harmful, either. Pumpkin seeds are still a healthy snack high in fiber and other nutrients. However, omega-3 fatty acids may interfere with some blood clotting medications. Before giving pumpkin seeds to your child, talk to your pediatrician about whether they are a good snack option.
Researchers and doctors are determined to find a healthy and convenient way for children with asthma to experience relief. Even though pumpkin seeds have been ruled out as a potential option for now, there is hope for alternative treatments that fight against asthma.