Promising results: maternity supplements could cut the risk of serious allergies in children
New research has found that taking fish oils during pregnancy could help to protect against serious allergies in children. Here we discuss the evidence and what supplements should be considered for pregnant women going forward.
What does the research say?
Allergies in children are a growing concern; peanut allergies amongst children are most common, closely followed by allergies to eggs. New research has explored whether or not a mum-to-be’s diet and supplement regime could have a significant effect, and the initial results look promising.
Interestingly, a woman’s dietary intake of supposed ‘problem foods’ such as nuts and eggs didn’t seem to have a significant impact on the risk of allergies, but including supplements in their regime may have a beneficial effect.
The large review trial conducted by The Imperial College of London1 found promising results for the use of fish oil and probiotic supplements separately, for helping to protect against the onset allergies in children.
The study collected data from a total of 19 independent trials and concluded that taking fish oils from 20 weeks gestation, and continuing through to the first 4 months of breastfeeding, helped to slash the risk of peanut and egg allergies in children by 38% and 33% respectively.
Wiley’s PreNatal DHA & EPA capsules contain a concentrated dose of EPA and DHA essential fatty acids to help support foetal and infant development. The daily dose is suitable during pregnancy and for breastfeeding mums.
What about probiotics?
The benefits of supplementing with fish oils wasn’t the only promising outcome, as probiotics were also investigated. Probiotics contain live bacteria which can help to support the balance of bacteria in the gut. Pregnant women who took probiotics from as late as 36 weeks gestation still saw some benefit, with the risk of eczema in their children being reduced by up to 22%.
Optibac Probiotics For Babies and Children is also suitable for pregnant and breastfeeding mums. Containing a source of prebiotics and live cultures, this product helps to support the optimal balance of bacteria in the gut.
Breastfeeding for longer periods of time was also found to be positively associated with the protection against eczema in children.1
What mechanisms are involved?
Although the mechanisms involved aren’t well understood, fish oils are rich in anti-inflammatory omega-3 and immune-boosting vitamin D, which may help to modulate the immune functions of the foetus.
Gut health has also been linked to the unset of allergies. Dysbiois, or an imbalance in gut bacteria, may have play a part to play in allergies and in skin conditions such as eczema as up to 70% of our immune cells reside in the gut. This could explain why the introduction of the beneficial strains of bacteria found in probiotics which help to support the balance of bacteria, could have positive effects on the immune responses involved in chronic skin conditions.
What’s the advice?
Only two studies investigated the effects of fish oils on the onset of peanut allergies whilst a larger number supported the effects on the egg allergy and eczema outcomes. So, although the results are certainly promising, more research is needed in this field.
Currently the official advice for pregnant remains the same, however, fish oil or probiotic supplements suitable in pregnancy should certainly be considered. Always double check with your midwife before taking any supplements during pregnancy.
- Garcia-Larsen V, Lerodiakonou D and Jarrold K et al. Diet during pregnancy and infancy and risk of allergic or autoimmune disease: A systematic review and meta-analysis. PLOS Medicine, 2018; 15 (2): e1002507 DOI: 10.1371/journal.pmed.1002507