MUNSTER, GERMANY. It has long been suspected that the intake of certain polyunsaturated fatty acids is associated with the development of asthma and allergies in children. The n-3 (linolenic) and n-6 (linoleic) fatty acids have been particularly suspect, but no data has been available to indicate whether the configuration (cis or trans) of these acids plays a significant role. A team of medical researchers from Germany and New Zealand report that there is a strong link between the intake of trans fatty acids and the prevalence of asthma, allergic rhinoconjunctivitis and atopic eczema in 13- to 14-year- old children. The association was particularly strong when the analysis was limited to trans fatty acids stemming from hydrogenated vegetable oils such as found in margarine, biscuits, cakes, and potato and other chips. No association between the intake of cis (natural) fatty acids and asthma and allergies was observed. In other words, hydrogenated vegetable oils whether found in margarine, cookies, french fries or chips are bad for children and may be a primary reason for their asthma and allergies. The study was performed by the International Study of Asthma and Allergies in Childhood group and included extensive data from 10 European countries concerning fatty acid intake and prevalence of asthma and allergies.
Weiland, Stephan K., et al. Intake of trans fatty acids and prevalence of childhood asthma and allergies in Europe. The Lancet, Vol. 353, June 12, 1999, pp. 2040-41 (research letter)