Mother’s Diet Influences Baby’s Allergies, Research Suggests

September 16th, 2011 by

Plenty of studies as of late have found that a mother’s diet during pregnancy can have a big impact on her baby like influencing taste preference as well as future weight maintenance and disease risk.  What if mum’s diet could also predict a child’s future allergies risk? A new study has suggested exactly that.

The Rennes, France, study found a possible correlation between maternal diet and her child’s risk of developing allergies.  Several clinical trials have previously found that supplementing fish and walnut oil in women’s diets during pregnancy reduced the risk of their children developing allergies, but the mechanism of action had remained unknown.

It seems the key factor of the potential influence mum’s diet may have over baby’s allergy risk is a certain group of polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) that are found in walnut oil, flaxseed, or fish.  These PUFAs are thought to improve how the immune cells in the gut react to foreign substances and bacteria leaving the baby less likely to suffer from allergies.  The study takes this notion further to say that these PUFAs may change how a baby’s gut develops, which in turn could affect the development of the baby’s gut immune system ultimately affecting the risk of allergies later in life. 

The particular group of PUFAs that presented such a positive effect was n-3PUFAs or more commonly known as omega-3 fatty acids.  Omega-3 fatty acids are comprised of DHA which, in the past few years, has been found to be critical to expecting mums and their babies.  So much so that infant formula companies are now adding DHA to their formulas.  Not only is the American diet gravely lacking in omega-3, as Dr. Gaelle Boudry of the INRA research institute in France explains: “In the western diet, the group of polyunsaturated fatty acids that we have shown to help gut function are actually disappearing — our dietary intake of fish and nut oils is being replaced by corn oils which contain a different kind of fatty acid.” That different kind of fatty acid is Omega-6 fatty acid which, in the absence of adequate omega-3, can be pro-inflammatory.   

The findings of the study were based on piglets, whose guts strongly resemble humans, and researchers note the need make sure these results translate to humans in future studies.  That being said, it is not news that omega-3’s have yet another potential positive effect on the healthy development of babies so it is important for mums to have good sources in their diets.  View our Healthy Pregnancy Eating Guide for more information and be sure to talk to your doctor before taking any supplements during pregnancy.

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