29 Mar Fish Oil and Probiotics May be More Important for Pregnancy than Previously Thought
Proper prenatal nutrition standards are constantly evolving. As new research emerges, we learn more and more about what the female body needs to support a healthy pregnancy. A recent study commissioned by the Food Standards Agency in the United Kingdom found that women who take fish oil supplements and probiotics in later pregnancy may reduce their child’s risk of food allergies and eczema.1,2
There’s nothing fishy about the benefits of taking fish oil. Fish oil has long been regarded for its many health benefits. Most notably, the omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) in fish oil have been shown to have anti-inflammatory properties that enhance cardiovascular health.3 Omega-3 fatty acid supplementation has also been shown to enhance fetal cognitive development.4 In addition to these benefits, it seems omega-3 fatty acid supplementation during pregnancy may play a role in childhood allergy risk as well. The meta-analysis from the current study showed an association between omega-3 fatty acid supplementation using fish oil during pregnancy/lactation and reduced allergic sensitization to egg at 1 year old.2 These results were from pregnant women who took a daily fish oil capsule from 20 weeks gestation to the third or fourth month of breastfeeding.1 The risk of egg allergy in the child with this maternal supplementation was reduced by 30 percent.1 In addition, the team found that women taking fish oil supplements during pregnancy reduced the child’s risk of peanut allergy by 38 percent.1 The reduction of certain child allergies from fish oil is likely attributed to the anti-inflammatory effects of omega-3 fatty acids.
If you aren’t living in a cave, then chances are you can’t go a day without hearing about the benefits of probiotics. Maintaining a healthy balance of beneficial and harmful microbes, with the help of probiotics, has been all the buzz in the science community for quite some time now. Probiotics play a role in immune support, gastrointestinal health, and even mood. The initial microbiome colonization in early life sets the stage for subsequent colonizations, which may effect the risk of developing certain diseases, allergies, and becoming obese later in life.5 The present study found that when probiotics were taken during pregnancy and breastfeeding, the risk of a child developing eczema between the ages of 6 months and three years was reduced by 22 percent.1 The probiotic supplements used contained Lactobacillus rhamnosus at a dose of 1 to 10 billion colony-forming units per day.2 The finding that probiotic supplementation may reduce the risk of eczema is supported with a known World Allergy Organization (WAO) systematic review and guideline.2
This study illustrates the potential benefits of omega-3 fatty acid and probiotic maternal supplementation in reducing child allergy risk. As you continue on your pregnancy journey, it is important to remain aware of new research that comes to light and follow the most current pregnancy guidelines. It is important to speak to your healthcare provider with any questions or inquiries about prenatal nutrition that you may have.
References: 1. Imperial College London. “Fish oil and probiotic supplements in pregnancy may reduce risk of childhood allergies.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 28 February 2018. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/02/180228144448.htm. 2. Garcia-Larsen V, Ierodiakonou D, Jarrold K, Cunha S, Chivinge J, Robinson Z, et al. Diet during pregnancy and infancy and risk of allergic or autoimmune disease: A systematic review and meta-analysis. PLOS Medicine, 2018; 15 (2): e1002507 DOI: 10.1371/journal.pmed.1002507. 3. Mayo Clinic. Omega-3 in fish: How eating fish helps your heart. Mayo Clinic Staff. July 20, 2016. Website. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/heart-disease/in-depth/omega-3/art- 20045614?pg=2. 4. Carlson S. Docosahexaenoic acid supplementation in pregnancy and lactation. Am J Clin Nutr. 2009; 89(Suppl):678–684. 5. Cho, I., & Blaser, M. J. (2012). The Human Microbiome: at the interface of health and disease. Nature Reviews. Genetics, 13(4), 260–270. http://doi.org/10.1038/nrg3182.