Many a parent of an allergic child lives in fear of their little one being stung by a bee or accidentally being exposed to peanuts, eggs or shellfish. For allergic kids, such exposure can mean a reaction ranging in severity from coughing, sneezing, an itchy throat or a runny nose, to trouble breathing, hives, a rash, low blood pressure, an asthma attack, or even death.
The Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA) warns that there is no cure for such allergies, and that parents can simply manage the situation through prevention and swift medical treatment. Around 40 percent of all American children suffer with allergies, with about 4.2 million being allergic to specific foods. Eczema and allergies are often linked, with allergies being more common among people who are also prone to eczema.
Now, a meta-analysis by researchers from Imperial College London in the U.K. may offer new hope to the parents of such children.
As reported by Science Daily, the research team, which was commissioned by the Food Standards Agency, set out to investigate more closely the effects of a woman’s diet during pregnancy on her baby’s allergy and eczema risk profile after birth. The meta-analysis assessed the findings of over 400 studies, involving 1.5 million people, and the results were published in the journal PLOS Medicine.
After examining the data, the team established that women taking a daily fish oil supplement from the 20th week of pregnancy until the fourth month of breastfeeding were able to reduce their children’s risk of egg allergy by 30 percent. On the other hand, women taking probiotic supplements between the 36th and 38th weeks of pregnancy and again during the initial months of breastfeeding could reduce their children’s risk of developing eczema by 22 percent.
The team examined the results of 19 fish oil supplement trials, in which 15,000 women were given omega-3 supplements during pregnancy (omega-6 fatty acids did not have the same effect). The results revealed a 30 percent reduction in egg allergy risk under the age of 1 for the children born to these mothers. This means 31 fewer children per 1,000 to develop an egg allergy. It is believed that fish oil supplements help to suppress an overactive immune system, which is what generally causes the body to overreact to usually harmless foods like eggs. (Related: Severe childhood allergies to peanuts, eggs and dairy directly linked to “trace” ingredients in common vaccines.)
The research also seems to indicate that fish oil supplements during pregnancy could reduce the risk of a child developing a peanut allergy by 38 percent, but the team warned that these findings were not as reliable as they were based on only two studies.
The analysis also involved 28 trials of probiotic supplements given to around 6,000 women during the later months of pregnancy and early months of breastfeeding, in capsule, drink or powder form. The most commonly included bacterium was Lactobacillus rhamnosus. The children of these mothers had a 22 percent reduced risk of eczema between the ages of 6 months and 3 years, which equates to 44 fewer kids with eczema per 1,000 children. (Related: Probiotics cure peanut allergies in 80% of children and can replace vaccines for immune system stimulation.)
“Food allergies and eczema in children are a growing problem across the world,” noted Dr. Robert Boyle, the study’s lead author. “Although there has been a suggestion that what a woman eats during pregnancy may affect her baby’s risk of developing allergies or eczema, until now there has never been such a comprehensive analysis of the data.”
He added, “Our research suggests probiotic and fish oil supplements may reduce a child’s risk of developing an allergic condition, and these findings need to be considered when guidelines for pregnant women are updated.”
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