Allergies in children are a growing concern among the scientific community and of course, among parents. While it is still unclear what triggers them, it appears the mother's diet could be linked to this in some form, according to new research. 


According to a study published yesterday in the journal PLOS Medicine, women who take fish oil supplements and probiotics in later pregnancy may reduce their child's risk of food allergy and eczema.


"Food allergies and eczema in children are a growing problem across the world, 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."


To find out how a pregnant woman's diet affects her baby's allergy and eczema risk, scientists from Imperial College London assessed over 400 studies involving 1.5 million people.


As part of their meta-analysis, they found that when pregnant women took a daily fish oil capsule from 20 weeks pregnant, and during the first three to four months of breastfeeding, the risk of egg allergy in the child dropped by 30 per cent.


The team also found that taking a daily probiotic supplement from 36-38 weeks pregnant, and during the first three to six months of breastfeeding, reduced the risk of a child developing eczema by 22 per cent. This is the equivalent of 44 cases of eczema per 1000 children.



The researchers found no evidence that avoiding potentially allergenic foods such as nuts, dairy and eggs during pregnancy made a difference to a child's allergy or eczema risk.


The team also found that taking fish oil supplements during pregnancy reduced the child's risk of peanut allergy by 38 per cent . However, they caution this finding was based only on two studies, and not as reliable as the egg allergy and eczema results.


More research is now needed to understand how probiotics and fish oils may reduce allergy and eczema risk, according to Dr Vanessa Garcia-Larsen, co-author of the study from the National Heart and Lung Institute at Imperial.


"Despite allergies and eczema being on the rise, and affecting millions of children, we are still hunting for the root causes of these conditions, and how to prevent them."


In this study, the team assessed 28 trials of probiotic supplements during pregnancy, involving 6,000 women. They also assessed around 19 trials of fish oil supplements during pregnancy, involving 15,000 people.


The study revealed some evidence for links between longer duration of breastfeeding and a reduced risk of eczema, and breastfeeding was also linked with a lower risk of type one diabetes.