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PUFAs in the diet during pregnancy may lower baby's allergy

Kathleen Blanchard's picture

Pregnant women who eat fish, walnuts, flaxseed and other foods containing healthy known as PUFAs - polyunsaturated fatty acids - might have babies with healthier immune systems and fewer allergies.

Scientists say the impact of diet during pregnancy on the health of the baby has been the subject of much research. Past studies show walnut oil taken during pregnancy can boost a child’s IQ.

Dietary oils during pregnancy boosts baby's immunity

The new study suggests healthy oils consumed during pregnancy can lower the chances of allergies that lead to skin disorders such as eczema and upper respiratory infections during infancy.

Eating a Western diet during pregnancy contributes to higher rates of infant allergies because it alters the way a baby's gut develops. Adding PUFAs during pregnancy made the gut healthier in baby pigs studied and better able to produce antibodies, say the researchers.

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“The end result is that the baby's immune system may develop and mature faster – leading to better immune function and less likelihood of suffering allergies," said Dr Gaëlle Boudry, of the INRA research institute in Rennes, France.

Boudry explains polyunsaturated fatty acids are disappearing from the diet, perhaps accounting for increasing allergy rates that can also lead to asthma.

For the current study, the scientists used piglets whose intestinal system is much like that of humans. The researchers hope the finding translates to humans, but more studies are needed.

The investigators plan to continue their studies to see if adding PUFAs from the likes of fish, walnuts and flaxseed during pregnancy can keep immune function intact and lower the risk of allergies throughout life. The study, published in the Journal of Physiology, adds to a growing body of evidence that a mother's diet during pregnancy has a direct impact on the health of her child.

Image credit: morguefile