Background: Maternal intake of omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) during pregnancy has decreased, possibly contributing to a current increased risk of childhood allergy.
Aim: To describe the effects of maternal omega-3 long-chain PUFA [fish oil] supplementation during pregnancy and lactation on the incidence of allergic disease in infancy.
Methods: 145 pregnant women, affected by allergy themselves or having a husband or previous child with allergies, were included in a randomized placebo-controlled trial.
Daily maternal supplementation with either 1.6 g eicosapentaenoic acid and 1.1 g docosahexaenoic acid or placebo was given from the 25th gestational week to average 3 to 4 months of breastfeeding.
Skin prick tests, detection of circulating specific immunoglobulin E (IgE) antibodies and clinical examinations of the infants were performed.
Results: The period prevalence of food allergy was lower in the omega-3 group (1 of 52, 2%) compared to the placebo group (10 of 65, 15%, p < 0.05) as well as the incidence of IgE-associated eczema (omega-3 group: 4 of 52, 8%; placebo group: 15 of 63, 24%, p < 0.05). [Food allergy was 5 times as prevalent, eczema 3 times as prevalent, in the group not supplementing with omega-3 fish oil.]
Conclusion: Maternal omega-3 fatty acid supplementation may decrease the risk of food allergy and IgE-associated eczema during the first year of life in infants with a family history of allergic disease.
Source: Acta Paediatrica, Sep 2009. Furuhielm C, Warstedt K, Larsson J, Fredriksson M, Bottcher MF, Falth-Magnusson K, Duchen K. Divisions of Pediatrics and Occupational and Environmental Medicine, Faculty of Health Sciences, Linköping University; Pediatric Clinic, Ryhov Hospital, Jönköping, Sweden. [Email: firstname.lastname@example.org]