Does diet during pregnancy and early infancy really influence the baby’s risk for developing allergies? 

Does diet during pregnancy and early infancy really influence the baby’s risk for developing allergies?

Many small studies have been conducted to try answer this question, with mixed results. Now researchers from Imperial College London have combined these studies and analysed them together to get a bigger-picture answer.

Overall, 433 studies between 1946 to 2017 were included,  involving over 1.5 million participants.

This meta-analysis found a significant relationship between some maternal diet during pregnancy and lactation with eczema and food allergies during childhood.

More specifically, taking probiotic supplements daily from around 36 to 38 weeks pregnancy through to the first 3 to 6 months of lactation, may reduce the risk of eczema in the child.

The study also suggests that taking fish oil supplements during pregnancy (from around 20 weeks pregnancy through to the first 3 to 4 months lactation) may reduce the child’s risk of developing allergies to common food allergens like eggs and peanuts.

The study found weak support for the theory that longer duration of breastfeeding is associated with reduced Type 1 diabetes, eczema, and wheezing in the child.

There was also no significant association between other dietary exposures and risk of allergic or autoimmune diseases. This “dietary exposures” included vitamin, mineral, fruit, or vegetable intake, as well as the mother’s efforts in avoiding common food allergens during pregnancy, and the timing of solid food introduction in the baby.

Reference to the study: http://journals.plos.org/plosmedicine/article?id=10.1371/journal.pmed.1002507

About Rina Soetanto

Rina Soetanto is currently doing her PhD in molecular biology. She also has an extensive background in pharmacology and pre-clinical cancer research, as well as an undergraduate science degree from the Australian National University with a double major in neuroscience and immunology.

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