Babies born to women who took fish oil and probiotic supplements during their second and third trimester of pregnancy may be at reduced risk of suffering from egg allergy and eczema, a study has found.
The findings showed that when pregnant women took a daily fish oil capsule from 20 weeks pregnant, and during the first three to four months of breastfeeding, the risk of egg allergy in the child was reduced by 30 per cent.
Taking a daily probiotic supplement from 36-38 weeks pregnant, and during the first three to six months of breastfeeding, reduced the risk of a child developing eczema, that causes dry, cracked and itchy skin, by 22 per cent.
This is the equivalent of 44 cases of eczema per 1,000 children.
“Food allergies and eczema in children are a growing problem across the world. Our research suggests probiotic and fish oil supplements may reduce a child’s risk of developing an allergic condition,” said lead author Robert Boyle, from the Imperial College London.
“These findings need to be considered when guidelines for pregnant women are updated,” Boyle suggested.
Importantly, the study, published in the journal PLOS Medicine, found no evidence that avoiding potentially allergenic foods such as nuts, dairy and eggs during pregnancy made a difference to a child’s allergy or eczema risk.
Allergies to foods such as nuts, eggs, milk or wheat are caused by the immune system malfunctioning and over-reacting to these harmless foods. This triggers symptoms such as rashes, swelling, vomiting and wheezing.
For the study, the team assessed 28 trials of probiotic supplements during pregnancy, involving around 6,000 women and around 19 trials of fish oil supplements during pregnancy, involving around 15,000 people.
These studies revealed a 30 per cent reduction in risk of egg allergy by age one, which equates to a reduction of 31 cases of egg allergy per 1000 children.