Maternal diet is thought to have an impact on subsequent child health. This is because aspects of the mother’s diet can condition the rapidly growing organs of the foetus. A new study
from Scotland has found that children whose pregnant mothers ate apples or fish were less likely to develop allergic conditions.
Nearly 2000 pregnant women were recruited for a long-term observational study. Dietary habits were assessed using a food frequency questionnaire. Their babies were then followed from birth to 5
years of age. At regular intervals, questionnaires were used to assess the health of the children, including any incidences of wheezing, asthma or eczema. Researchers then used data on the
maternal diets to find out whether any particular foods or drinks were linked with child health. Foods of interest included fruits, vegetables, wholegrains, juices, fish, dairy products and
fats. This is because previous studies demonstrated associations between childhood asthma and intakes of vitamin E, vitamin D and zinc during pregnancy.
Children whose mothers ate the most apples during pregnancy were 37% less likely to develop wheezing or asthma compared with children whose mothers ate few apples. Likewise, children of mothers
who ate fish more than once a week were more than 40% less likely to experience eczema than children of mothers who never ate fish. It is possible that these foods are protective because of the
flavonoids (apples) and long-chain omega-3s (fish), which are known to impact favourably on immune function.
The authors concluded that apples and fish consumed during pregnancy could protect against the development of childhood asthma and eczema. However, it is worth noting that the study was based
on associations, which are too blunt a tool to predict cause and effect in practice.
For more information see
Willers S et al (2007) Maternal food consumption during pregnancy and asthma, respiratory and atopic symptoms in 5-year-old children. Presented at the American Thoracic Society, May.