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Diet and Allergies

Diet During Pregnancy Can Affect Allergies in Babies
by Mommy MD Guide Rallie McAllister, MD, MPH

The foods that a mom-to-be eats while she’s pregnant can impact her baby’s risk of developing allergies, according to a recent study.*

The researchers found that if a mother’s diet contains a certain group of polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs)—such as those found in fish, walnut oil or flaxseed—her baby’s gut developed differently. The PUFAs are thought to improve the way that immune cells in the gut respond to bacteria and foreign substances. This in turn makes the baby less likely to suffer from allergies.

Previous research has proven that the consumption of fish and walnuts during pregnancy reduces the risk of allergy in a woman’s baby, but the reason for this risk reduction wasn’t fully understood. Sadly, in the US, we’re not consuming many PUFAs from fish and walnuts. Our dietary intake of fish and nuts has been replaced by corn oils, which contains a different kind of fatty acid.

The scientists found that supplementing the diet of a mom-to-be with the same type of PUFAs

(n-3PUFAs) found in walnuts and fish helped the newborn’s gut to become more permeable. A more permeable gut allows bacteria and other substances to pass through the lining of the intestine into the bloodstream more easily, and triggers the baby’s immune response. This chain of events allows the baby’s immune system to develop and mature faster. Better immune function appears to help reduce the likelihood of suffering allergies.

Previous studies have shown that intake of n-3PUFAs during pregnancy increases gestational length and maturation of the central nervous system in babies. Additionally, these babies might just be a bit smarter. They tend to have better performance on mental tasks in childhood.

* F. De Quelen, J. Chevalier, M. Rolli-Derkinderen, J. Mourot, M. Neunlist, G. Boudry. N-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids in the maternal diet modify the post-natal development of nervous regulation of intestinal permeability in piglets. The Journal of Physiology, 2011; DOI: 10.1113/jphysiol.2011.214056

The information on MommyMDGuides.com is not intended to replace the diagnosis, treatment, and services of a physician. Always consult your physician or child care expert if you have any questions concerning your family's health. For severe or life-threatening conditions, seek immediate medical attention.