Writing in the British Medical Journal, researchers reveal that supplementation with omega-3 long chain polyunsaturated fatty acids (LCPUFA) during pregnancy reduces the risk of atopic eczema in children by around 38%, and halves the risk a child developing egg allergy.
The findings are from the largest ever clinical study to assess the effects of omega-3 supplementation in pregnant women –– with data from over 700 pregnancies in Australia. The study – run as part of the DOMInO trial – investigated whether dietary omega-3 of pregnant women reduces immunoglobulin E associated eczema or food allergy in children. Immunoglobulin E (IgE) is the primary immune system antibody associated with allergic responses.
“Treatment with omega-3 LCPUFA during pregnancy reduced the percentage of infants with atopic eczema and reduced the percentage of infants with sensitisation to eggs,” said the researchers, led by Professor Maria Makrides of the Women’s and Children’s Health Research Institute, Australia.
“Our results imply that for pregnant women with allergies and living in industrialized societies, it is possible to reduce the chances of her baby developing atopic eczema or atopic dermatitis in the first year of life by taking about 1g of fish oil fatty acids in the last half of pregnancy," explained Makrides.
Commenting on the research, Dr Alex Richardson, senior research fellow at the Centre for Evidence Based Intervention, University of Oxford noted that many previous studies have shown omega-3 to be essential for the normal development and future health of the unborn baby.
“These latest findings now show that omega-3 supplementation during pregnancy also led to dramatic reductions in the proportions of children suffering from either atopic eczema or allergic sensitisation to egg protein, confirming the importance of these nutrients for healthy immune system development,” said Richardson.
The DOMInO trial (DHA to Optimise Mother and Infant Outcome) required expectant mothers allocated to the omega-3 group to consume three 500 mg capsules of fish oil (equivalent to 900mg omega-3) per day from 21 weeks of pregnancy.
The multi-centered, randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial, then measured IgE associated allergic disease (eczema or food allergy with sensitisation) at one year of age.
Makrides and her team reported that no differences were seen in the overall percentage of infants with IgE associated allergic disease between the omega-3 supplemented (Efalex Mother and Baby) and control groups.
However, they noted that the incidence of atopic eczema and egg sensitisation were lower.
They revealed that children whose mothers had consumed omega-3 daily had 36% less risk of developing eczema, a 38% reduction in the chance of being sensitised to egg, and 50% less chance of having egg allergy.
Source: British Medical Journal
Published online ahead of print, Open Access, doi: 10.1136/bmj.e18
“Effect of n-3 long chain polyunsaturated fatty acid supplementation in pregnancy on infants’ allergies in first year of life: randomised controlled trial”
Authors: D.J. Palmer, T. Sullivan, M.S. Gold, S.L. Prescott, R. Heddle, et al