Fish oils during pregnancy could help reduce food allergies in children: Research


According to the new research by Scientists at Imperial College London (ICL), pregnant women who took a daily fish oil capsule after their 20th week of pregnancy potentially reduced the risk of food allergies in their child by one third.


Commissioned by the Food Standards Agency (FSA), the study discovered that women taking fish oils in the later stages of pregnancy and during the first three to four months of breastfeeding reduced the chance of their child developing an egg allergy by 30%.


The ICL scientists amassed data from more than 400 individual studies consisting of 1.5 million pregnant women in one of the largest research projects into maternal diets and child food allergies.


Dr Robert Boyle, lead researcher, ICL said, “We conducted a systematic review of all published studies evaluating relationships between diet during pregnancy or lactation, and an infant’s diet during the first year of life, and risk of allergic or autoimmune problems in the child.”


“We used meta-analysis techniques for combining findings from different studies, to allow us to make new conclusions.”


In some cases, the risk of their child contracting eczema fell by 22% in women who took probiotic supplements between 36 and 38 weeks of pregnancy. This was the same for women who took probiotics in the first three to six months of breastfeeding.


“The most striking finding was the link between fish oil (omega 3 fatty acid) supplements during pregnancy and lactation, and reduced risk of food allergy,” Dr Boyle added.


“Further trials are underway already to evaluate the health benefits of fish oil supplementation during pregnancy.”


The researchers found that avoiding potentially food allergens such as nuts, dairy and eggs during pregnancy did not show any benefits.


“Although there has been a suggestion that what a woman eats during pregnancy may affect her baby’s risk of developing allergies or eczema, until now there has never been such a comprehensive analysis of the data,” said Dr Boyle.


Eczema affects as many as one in five children in the UK, causing the development of dry and itchy skin. Eczema sufferers are also more likely to develop food allergies.


Dr Vanessa Garcia-Larsen, co-author and Johns Hopkins University assistant professor of health nutrition said, “Despite allergies and eczema being on the rise, and affecting millions of children, we are still hunting for the root causes of these conditions, and how to prevent them.”


“This study has provided clues, which we now need to follow with further research,” she added.


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