12 January - 20 June 2016

Fish oil supplementation and probiotics in later pregnancy may reduce risk of food allergy and eczema in children

A comprehensive review into the relationship between diet during pregnancy and infancy and risk of allergic sensitisation, allergic disease or autoimmune disease, published in PLOS Medicine, funded by the Food Standards Agency and conducted by researchers from Imperial College London, the University of Nottingham and John Hopkins School of Public Health, suggest that taking fish oil and probiotics in later pregnancy and during breast feeding may help reduce the risk of eczema and certain food allergies in children.

A comprehensive review into the relationship between diet during pregnancy and infancy and risk of allergic sensitisation, allergic disease or autoimmune disease, published in PLOS Medicine, funded by the Food Standards Agency and conducted by researchers from Imperial College London, the University of Nottingham and John Hopkins School of Public Health, suggest that taking fish oil and probiotics in later pregnancy and during breast feeding may help reduce the risk of eczema and certain food allergies in children.

Previous studies have indicated that immune-mediated health conditions such as allergic and autoimmune diseases appear to have increased in prevalence and are some of the most common chronic diseases in children and young adults in UK but no comprehensive analysis of the relationship between diet during and after pregnancy and risk of allergic or autoimmune diseases has previously been undertaken.

Boyle et al. wanted to evaluate the relationship between diet during pregnancy, lactation and the first year of life, and the risk of allergic or autoimmune disease, through a critical review of all the published studies. Allergic and autoimmune outcomes were selected on the basic of their population prevalence in children (at least 1 in 1000) and the review included 260 studies relating to milk feeding and 173 studies investigating maternal and infant diet published between 1946 and 2017, covering over 1.5 million participants in total.

Boyle et al. note that their principal findings are that they “found a relationship between maternal diet during pregnancy and lactation and eczema or allergic sensitisation to food during childhood”. They state that “positive health effects were found for probiotic and fish oil supplements”. For fish during pregnancy and breastfeeding, Boyle et al. found that omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acid supplementation oil may reduce risk of sensitisation to egg and peanuts allergens at 1year old by 30%. No association was found for other allergic outcomes and fish oil supplementation. Probiotic supplementation showed a 22% reduced risk of eczema in under 4year olds but no clear association between prebiotics and eczema. Probiotic and prebiotics showed no association with other allergic outcomes. Boyle et al. also note that they found “weaker support for the hypotheses that multifaceted interventions reduce risk of allergic rhinitis and wheeze; that longer duration of breastfeeding is associated with reduced eczema, Type 1 diabetes mellitus (TIDM), and wheezing; and that longer exclusive breastfeeding is associated with reduced TIDM” but no association between other exposures, (including timing of solid food introduction, prebiotic supplementation, maternal allergenic food avoidance, and vitamin, mineral, fruit, or vegetable intake) and risk of allergic or autoimmune diseases.

In discussion, Boyle et al. reiterate that maternal diet during pregnancy and lactation may influence the risk of the child developing allergic disease and that, specifically, “a daily probiotic supplement such as L. rhamnosus, taken from around 36 to 38 weeks gestation through the first 3 to 6 months of lactation, may reduce risk of eczema in the child”. In addition, Boyle et al indicate that “a fish oil supplement taken from around 20 weeks of gestation through the first 3 to 4 months of lactation, may reduce risk of allergic sensitisation to egg or peanut in the child”. 

In conclusion, the review states that the findings suggest that “current infant feeding guidance needs revision” and add that “guideline committees will need to carefully consider the key findings together with an evaluation of the safety, acceptability, and cost implications of advising probiotic or fish oil supplementation for pregnant and lactating women”.

RSSL's Lipids Laboratory, part of the Investigative Analysis Team has expertise in all aspects of fat analysis and fatty acid profiling, including the determination of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. To find out more please contact Customer Services telephone 0118 918 4076 or e-mail enquiries@rssl.com<

RSSL can provide you with a complete food allergen management solution. We provide a comprehensive range of analysistraining and food allergen consultancy services to help you control and manage allergens within food manufacturing and retailing. To find out more please contact Customer Services telephone 0118 918 4076 or e-mail enquiries@rssl.com

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