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Fish Oil Supplements During Pregnancy Can Dramatically Reduce Infant’s Eczema & Egg Allergy Risk

With 1 out of every 5 people in the world suffering from a disease brought on, or made worse, by allergies — pregnant women will want to take note of this study that was recently published in the British Medical Journal because it points to new research suggesting that daily fish oil supplements can decrease infants’ allergies by over 38%.

The study, conducted in Australia, is unique because it publishes findings from a clinical trial involving more than 700 pregnant women with higher than normal risks for passing on allergies to their children. To date, this study is the largest of it’s kind.

What did the study look at?

Researchers were particularly interested in finding out if a daily fish oil supplement would have any effect on the child’s allergy susceptibility during their first year. The women in the experimental group were all given 900mg of omega-3 fatty acids from fish oil for a total of 21 weeks (before giving birth). Note: When you see mgs of fish oil, this does not mean you are getting the same mgs of omega-3; you’ll want to check the label facts to see how many mgs of omega-3 your fish oil actually contains.

Because Immunoglobulin E is linked with allergies like eczema and other food sensitivities, that’s what the scientists decided to measure in this study.

Some quick & interesting facts on allergies

Eczema, which is sometimes referred to as atopic dermatitis, is a skin condition characterized by rashes that are quite itchy and leave scaly patches on the surface of the skin. According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information, the actual cause of this condition “is due to a hypersensitivity reaction (similar to an allergy) in the skin, which leads to long-term swelling and redness (inflammation) of the skin”.

Food sensitivities are well-known ‘triggers’ for skin conditions like eczema, and are quite common. Eggs are particularly notorious since they’re listed as number 2 on the FDA’s top 8 food allergens (you can see the other 7 here).

Risks were dramatically reduced when pregnant women took fish oil

After 12 months, children whose mother’s received a daily fish oil supplement were 38% less likely to suffer from eczema. Interestingly, those same children were also 50% less likely to suffer from egg allergies.

While this study is certainly the largest to be conducted on pregnant women, it is not the only one. Indeed, two other significant studies (like this one and this one) also seem to suggest that allergies and  certain inflammatory diseases can be prevented before they ever become a problem.

Source: Effect on n-3 long chain polyunsaturated fatty acid supplementation in pregnancy on infants’ allergies in first year of life: radomised controlled trial; BMJ 2012;344:e184