One hundred forty-five pregnant women who had a personal history of allergies or a husband or previous child with allergies were randomly assigned to receive, in double-blind fashion, fish oil (providing 1.6 g of eicosapentaenoic acid and 1.1 g of docosahexaenoic acid) or placebo, beginning at week 25 of gestation and continuing for the first three or four months of breastfeeding. During the first year of the infants' life, the prevalence of flood allergies (as determined by skin prick tests, specific circulating IgE antibodies, and clinical symptoms) was significantly lower in the fish oil group than in the placebo group (2% vs. 15%; p<0.05). The incidence of IgE-associated eczema was also significantly lower in the fish oil group than in the placebo group (8% vs. 24%; p<0.05).
Comment by Alan Gaby, MD
The results of this study indicate that maternal supplementation with fish oil may reduce the risk of food allergy and eczema during the first year of life in infants with a family history of allergic disease. [Food allergies were 7 times as likely and eczema was 3 times as likely in infants of non-supplemented mothers.] Other research has shown that maternal fish oil supplementation or fish consumption enhances the development of the brain and visual system in the infant and that the benefits of [wise] moderate fish consumption appear to outweigh the deleterious effects of mercury exposure.
Furuhjelm C, et. al. Fish oil supplementation in pregnancy and lactation may decrease the risk of infant allergy. Acta Paediatr. 2009;98:1461-1467.
Reprinted with exclusive permission from TOWNSEND LETTER for DOCTORS & PATIENTS Jan 2010. www.townsendletter.com.