Fish oil during pregnancy lessens allergy risk in kids
A new study has confirmed that taking in probiotics and fish oil capsules during pregnancy can decrease the risk of certain allergies in kids.
Good news for breastfeeding mummies and mums-to-be taking fish oil capsules! A new study describing the benefits of fish oil for women says daily intake of fish oil during pregnancy and the first few months of breastfeeding can help in preventing food allergies in babies.
Immune system malfunctions cause allergies, which may result in rashes, swelling, vomiting, and wheezing. Fish oil contains omega-3, a unique kind of fat that has a positive anti-inflammatory effect on the body.
According to an extensive analysis of past trials done by Imperial College London, taking fish oil during pregnancy (specifically, after the twentieth week of pregnancy and for the first three to four months of breastfeeding) led to a 30% reduction of egg allergy risk in babies by age one.
Meanwhile, eczema risk was 22% lower in children whose mothers took a probiotic supplement between 36 and 38 weeks of pregnancy.
Experts say larger trials are needed to study these children for longer. Still, this research has confirmed that a mum’s diet during pregnancy is influential in the development of allergies in kids early on.
Dr. Robert Boyle, lead author of the research, from the department of medicine at Imperial College London, said:
“Our research suggests probiotic and fish oil supplements may reduce a child’s risk of developing an allergic condition, and these findings need to be considered when guidelines for pregnant women are updated.”
The supplements discussed include omega-3 fatty acids, which are also present in oily fish.
Experts nowadays advise that pregnant women should consume no more than two portions of oily fish a week. Too much and you may get mercury poisoning from some fish, so avoid shark, swordfish, or marlin.
Omega-3 fatty acids are one of the few fats which we can’t make and must get by eating food with omega-3 fatty acids. Although no exact guidelines have been made for omega-3 fatty acids for pregnant women, it’s probably much more than before pregnancy.
Omega-3 fatty acids are important because they are necessary for your baby’s brain growth before birth, controlling specific timings during pregnancy, and your baby’s weight, too. As stated before, pregnant women should only eat 2 servings of oily fish per week – but this might not be enough. In order to obtain enough omega-3 fatty acids, expecting mums should eat from multiple food sources, such as vegetable oils and supplements (such as fish oil capsules).
The research group looked at 19 trials of fish oil supplements taken during pregnancy involving 15,000 people. The researchers found that the reduction in allergy risk equated to 31 fewer cases of egg allergy per 1,000 children.
They also looked at the impact of probiotic supplements taken during pregnancy. The researchers found a 22% reduction in the risk of eczema developing in children up to the age of three.
But they found no evidence that avoiding foods such as nuts, dairy and eggs during pregnancy made any difference to a child’s allergy risk.
Fruit, vegetable and vitamin intake appeared to have no impact either, the study published in the journal PLOS Medicine found.
Professor of respiratory epidemiology at Queen Mary University of London, Seif Shaheen, said the new study bolsters the link between diet during pregnancy and preventing childhood allergies.
“More definitive answers on the possible role of maternal probiotic and fish oil supplementation in the prevention of childhood allergic disease can only come from further large trials which follow up the children to school age,” he said.
“If such trials are big enough, they may be able to identify particular subgroups of mothers and children who would benefit most from these interventions.”
Dr Louisa James is from the British Society for Immunology. She warns that fish oil’s effect could be just about sensitivity to eggs. There are still questions to answer over more severe food allergies.
“The studies using fish oil supplementation all measured allergic sensitisation to egg as a surrogate measure of food allergy,” she said.
“Although sensitisation is necessary for allergies to develop, many children may be sensitised without ever developing any symptoms of allergy and so it will be important to determine if fish oil supplementation can reduce the risk of clinical food allergy.”
There’s a theory that allergies are on the rise because we now encounter a less diverse range of microbes. And this is in thanks to modern advances in sanitation. Since probiotics contain live bacteria, taking these during pregnancy or breastfeeding can help a child’s immune system.
There are also previous studies that suggested omega-3 fatty acids in fish oil help calm down over-active immune systems. In effect, this reduces the risk of allergies in children. However, pregnant women should still be careful.
The UK National Health Service (NHS) says women shouldn’t take any supplements containing vitamin A (retinol). That includes fish liver oils (e.g. cod liver oil) and high dose multivitamin supplements.
Pregnant women should also not eat liver and food made from liver, like liver pâtés or sausages. These food products might have too much vitamin A. Excessive vitamin A during rpegnancy can cause congenital defects in your unborn baby, and even liver poisoning.
Other than that, you should be careful of the skin medication you use as they may also contain Vitamin A. Pregnant women who use retinoid-based creams, like Accutane or Roaccutane, an anti-acne cream, are advised against using them while pregnant. If you are concerned about this issue, do consult a doctor so that they can better guide you.
Rather than take fish oil capsules during pregnancy, the NHS recommends expecting mums eat fish instead. Subsistence on a fish diet is especially helpful as fish contains a wide variety of beneficial nutrients.
Caution must be taken though, as the NHS advises pregnant women not to eat too much tuna or oily fish. Non-oily fish are still a good source of omega-3s.
This recent study also found no evidence that avoiding allergenic food during pregnancy can lower allergy risk in children. These kinds of food include nuts, dairy products, seafood, chocolate, or eggs.
Mums, we hope you’ve found this article on preventing food allergies in babies helpful in planning your diet choices. Read more on how Giving your baby eggs can prevent future allergies!