September 26, 2008

Fish Decreases Risk of Eczema

Researchers say giving fish to children before the age of nine months could decrease the chances of developing eczema.

In recent years, the rate of the painful skin condition has risen; scientists believe diet may be to blame.

Swedish scientists studied children in 5,000 families, and said that early introduction of fish cut the risk by a 25 percent.  

The study was published in Archives of Disease in Childhood.

The children included in the study were part of ongoing research looking at almost 17,000 infants born in 2003 in western Sweden.

Families filled in questionnaires about diet and home environment when the child was six months and 12 months old. 

At six months old, 13% of the families said their child had already developed eczema, and this rose to 20% by their first birthday.

Researchers found children with a sibling or mother with eczema were almost twice as likely to be affected by 12 months.

They found breast feeding, the age at which dairy products were introduced, and the presence of a furry pet in the home had no real influence on

However, the introduction of fish before nine months cut the risk by 25%.

The researchers wrote, "The fact that fish is rich in omega-3 fatty acids could partly explain the effects found in this cohort."

They said they found no measurable difference between children who ate white fish, and those who ate other types of fish richer in omega-3.

Dr. George Du Toit, a pediatric allergy specialist, said that fish had been linked to allergic reactions and eczema.

He said, "The connection between diet and eczema is complex.

"Eczema, particularly severe eczema, is commonly associated with the presence of food allergy.

"Parents of young children with eczema may therefore wish to consult with their doctor prior to the introduction of foods that commonly cause allergy, such as cow's milk, peanut and even fish."

A spokesman for the National Eczema Society agreed with the study. She said the genetic component of the condition was likely to be the most significant. She urges parents to avoid using harsh soaps and detergents on the skin from a young age.

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Archives of Disease in Childhood