Can Probiotics and Fish Oil Supplements During Pregnancy Reduce Childhood Allergies?

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:
Dr Robert Boyle, 
Reader in Paediatric Allergy
Department of Medicine
Imperial College London

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study?

Response: Diet in early life may influence whether or not an infant develops allergies or autoimmune disease. We undertook a project for the UK Food Standards Agency to evaluate the evidence for this.

MedicalResearch.com: What are the main findings? 

Response: We found that a probiotic supplement during the last 2-4 weeks of pregnancy and during breastfeeding may reduce an infant’s chances of developing eczema; and that omega-3 fatty acid supplements taken from the middle of pregnancy (20 weeks gestation) through the first few months of breastfeeding may reduce an infant’s chances of developing food allergy. We also found links between longer duration of breastfeeding and improved infant health, but for most other variations in diet during pregnancy or infancy we did not find evidence for a link with allergies or autoimmune disease.

MedicalResearch.com: What should readers take away from your report?

Response: A  mother’s diet during pregnancy and breastfeeding may influence her child’s chances of developing allergic conditions. Specifially, probiotics from late pregnancy, and omega-3 fatty acid supplements from mid-pregnancy may have positive health effects. 

MedicalResearch.com: What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this work?

Response: Larger, confirmatory studies are needed for the link between omega-3 fatty acids and food allergy. 

MedicalResearch.com: Is there anything else you would like to add?

Response: Probiotic supplements can occasionally cause stomach upset or infections, and should be avoided in people with immune deficiency or certain intestinal conditions. 

Citations:

Diet during pregnancy and infancy and risk of allergic or autoimmune disease: A systematic review and meta-analysis.

Vanessa Garcia-Larsen , Despo Ierodiakonou , Katharine Jarrold, Sergio Cunha, Jennifer Chivinge, Zoe Robinson, Natalie Geoghegan, Alisha Ruparelia, Pooja Devani, Marialena Trivella, Jo Leonardi-Bee, Robert J. Boyle

PLOS Medicine Published: February 28, 2018

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