Fish oil during pregnancy could reduce allergies in babies, study finds

Photo: Shuttertsock
Photo: Shuttertsock 

Pregnant women might want to consider eating fish oil tablets and probiotics to help lower their babies' risk of getting allergies.

A new study suggests fish oil cuts the risk of egg allergy by 30 per cent if it is taken as a daily capsule during pregnancy and the first few months of breastfeeding.

Meanwhile, taking probiotics during late pregnancy and lactation was found to cut the risk of ezcema by 22 per cent in children up to age 3.

The findings come from Imperial College London researchers who did a large analysis study of many other trials.

They were looking at whether a mum-to-be's diet affected babies' immune systems and led to allergies.

Allergies are where the immune system overreacts to ordinary foods. Allergy New Zealand says the most common triggers in infants are egg and dairy, while nuts and seafood lead the figures in older children, teens and adults. 

While the study found what appeared to be a link between fish oil and probiotics and allergy outcomes (the fish oil part covered 19 trials and 15,000 mothers), other foods the mum ate appeared to have little effect.

Researchers found no evidence that if the pregnant woman avoided foods such as nuts, dairy and eggs it made any difference to a baby's allergy risk.

They also found it made no difference to allergy risk as to how much fruit, vegetables and vitamins the woman ate.


The researchers said more longer term studies of the children up to age 5 were needed to understand the findings better.

The research was published on PLOS online.

Current prevention advice from the Australasian Society of Clinical Immunology and Allergy (which covers New Zealand specialists) is that at about 6 months, and when they are ready, infants should be introduced to a variety of solid foods. Parents should start with iron rich foods  while breastfeeding continues.

The society says all infants should be given allergenic solid foods, including peanut butter, cooked egg, dairy and wheat products in the first year and this includes infants at high risk of allergy.

- Stuff