Imperial College London, together with Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, USA, assessed over 400 studies involving 1,5 million people in order to observe if particular mother’s diet choices in pregnancy and breastfeeding may result protective against food allergies and eczema that the child can develop in the future. And the answer seems to be yes, some food choices may have a protective role.
In the study, published in February 2018 on the journal PLOS Medicine (Garcia-Larsen et al.), what is clear is that the introduction of fish oil in the mother’s diet in pregnancy and in the first 3-4 months of breastfeeding reduced in the child the risk of egg allergy by 30% and of peanut allergy by 38% and that taking probiotic supplements during late pregnancy (from 36° week) and during the first months of breastfeeding (from 3 to 6 months) reduced the risk of developing eczema by 22%. While it has not been observed any evidence that avoiding allergenic foods such as nuts, dairy and eggs in pregnancy can make a difference to child’s allergies. Finally, the researchers have observed, although there are more limited data, that a longer duration of breastfeeding may reduce risk of eczema and diabetes type 1.
The study is at the first stage and a lot of work still remains to do in order to exactly understand how fish oil and probiotic supplements act. However, the data are really encouraging and, according to Dr Rober Boyle, head of the team, these data should be taken into account when guidelines for pregnant women are updated.