Mother’s Diet Can Positively Influence Infant Allergies
September 9, 2011

Mother’s Diet Can Positively Influence Infant Allergies


According to new research, pregnant women can reduce the chances of their babies developing food allergies by eating a diet rich in fish oil and nuts.

Researchers found that omega-3 fatty acids prompt the gut to develop in a way that boosts the immune system.

The team from France's National Agricultural Research Institute (INRA) found that when pregnant women ate a diet high in a particular group of polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs), the gut walls of their offspring were more permeable.

"There is intense research interest in maternal diet during pregnancy.

In the western diet, the group of polyunsaturated fatty acids that we have shown to help gut function are actually disappearing — our dietary intake of fish and nut oils is being replaced by corn oils which contain a different kind of fatty acid," Dr Gaëlle Boudry, of the INRA research institute in Rennes, France, said in a press release.

"Our study identifies that a certain group of polyunsaturated fatty acids — known as n-3PUFAs — causes a change in how a baby's gut develops, which in turn might change how the gut immune system develops. These changes are likely to reduce the risk of developing allergies in later life."

The team said a more permeable gut enables bacteria and new substances to pass through the lining of the gut into the bloodstream more easily.  These new substances then trigger the baby's immune response and the production of antibodies.

"The end result is that the baby's immune system may develop and mature faster — leading to better immune function and less likelihood of suffering allergies," Dr Boudry said.

The research backs up previous studies that have shown how an intake of n-3 PUFAs during pregnancy increases gestational length and maturation of the central nervous system of a baby.

"Other studies have found that a diet containing fish or walnut oil during pregnancy may make your baby smarter — our research adds to this, suggesting such supplements also accelerate the development of a healthy immune system to ward off food allergies."

The study was published in September's issue of the Journal of Physiology.


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