Omega-3 during pregnancy, but not childhood, may reduce risk of infant food allergies

By Olivia Brown

- Last updated on GMT


Related tags omega 3 EPA and DHA Fish oil supplements Omega-3 fatty acid Allergies

A new meta-analysis of available RCTs observes that omega-3 supplementation during pregnancy was significantly associated with a reduction in the risk of developing food allergy diseases in offspring.

Omega-3 intakes during pregnancy and lactation were associated with decreased risks of infant egg and peanut sensitisation; a relationship which proved to continue during the first three years of age of the children. However, intakes during childhood did not demonstrate significant protection against the allergies.

The researchers from the Taipei Medical University, Taiwan, conclude: “We found that maternal omega-3 supplementation during pregnancy and lactation was significantly associated with decreased risks of infant egg sensitization and peanut sensitization among children.”

“To date, the evidence presented in this paper suggests that maternal supplementation with omega-3 PUFA decreases the prevalence of FA or the risk of food sensitization in children more significantly than does dietary omega-3 supplementation directly to infants,” they add.

Omega-3 and immunity

Previous evidence​ has highlighted the potential of omega-3 supplementation modulating the immune responses and influencing food allergies among children, with studies investigating the prevention and treatment of asthma, allergic rhinitis and atopic dramatis.

However, research has proven largely inconsistent, with a lack of control and analysis into the timing of intakes, say the authors of the current report. Distinguishing between the effect of maternal supplementation and direct infant intakes of omega-3s on food allergy risk is critical, and thus, there is a need to investigate this further.

The current paper sought to investigate the available data studying the association between omega-3 supplement intakes during pregnancy and childhood, and the resultant effect on infant food allergy risk.


The meta-analysis involved the examination of 12 randomised controlled trials which included 3,274 mother-infant pairs, using the databases of PubMed, Embase, Scopus, and Web of Science.

Average dosages of omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) ranged between 492 mg to 3,700 mg per day for the mothers, whilst intakes ranged between 184 to 390 mg per day for infants.

It was noted that maternal omega-3 supplementation during pregnancy and lactation was significantly associated with a decreased risk of infant egg (RR = 0.58) and peanut (RR = 0.62) sensitisation. Further subgroup analysis revealed that this association continued during the first three years of age in the infants, whilst peanut and cashew sensitisation was reduced following three years.

Following dose-response analysis, a linear relationship between maternal omega-3 supplementation and infant egg sensitisation risk during early life. The researchers noted a 3.2% decrease in risk of egg sensitisation with every 100 mg per day of supplementation in this early period.

However, omega-3 PUFA intake during children did not prove to demonstrate a protective effect against food allergies.


“Maternal omega-3 supplementation during pregnancy and lactation, rather than childhood intake, reduces the risk of infant food allergy and food sensitization,” the researchers conclude.

However, it is worth noting that between study heterogeneity existed in the research with regards to dosages and durations of supplementation.

Therefore, the researchers call for further studies to investigate these factors through higher levels of control within large scale RCTs monitoring maternal omega-3 PUFA supplementation. Additionally, they stress for the further exploration of direct infant supplementation, and the influence of the gut microbiome on this.



Source: Science Direct​ 

“Maternal Omega-3 Supplementation During Pregnancy, but Not Childhood Supplementation, Reduces the Risk of Food Allergy Diseases in Offspring”

Linh Ba Phuong Huynh, Nam Nhat Nguyen, Hsien-Yu Fan, Shih-Yi Huang PhD, Chung-Hsiung Huang, Yang-Ching Chen.

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