Eating more fish is a relatively common dietary recommendation for those who need more omega-3 fatty acids in their diets. It may be especially important for pregnant mothers.
A study from Sweden found that mothers who ate more oily fish while pregnant were more likely to have children without allergies by age three.
Karin Jonsson, a PhD student at the Chalmers University of Technology, was the lead author of the study.
Jonsson and her colleagues obtained the data for their study from the FarmFlora Birth Cohort--an ongoing study designed to examine how being raised on a farm affects the development of allergies in children. Previous research determined that children raised on farms seldom have allergies.
Jonsson and her team studied 65 children. All were from Västra Götaland, Sweden where 28 lived on dairy farms and 37 lived in the same area but not on farms.
The children received an examination from a pediatrician to establish any allergies. At the age of three only one child who lived on a farm had allergies while 10 of the non-farm children had allergies.
The researchers looked at the data that included information about both the mothers' and children's diets.
"At birth, and again at four months of age, the healthy children had higher proportions of the omega-3 fatty acid eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) in their blood," Jonsson said in a press release. "The levels corresponded with the mother's intake of fatty fish. The mothers of children with high proportions of omega-3 in the blood had been eating a lot of fish during pregnancy and lactations and we could also see evidence of this in their breast milk.”
They found the mothers who lived on farms ate more oily fish. They also found that the intake of seafood in the children was associated with a lower incidence of allergy. The correlation was not as strong for the mother's intake of oily fish.
Jonsson and the team also found children who were introduced to fish, eggs and flour before 11 months of age had a lower incidence of allergies.
Current recommendations for feeding children foods other than breast milk suggest waiting until six months.
Mothers who lived on dairy farms also ate more full-fat dairy products and saturated fats, according to the study.
"The Swedish National Food Agency recommends full breastfeeding until the child is six months, but we see that there might be reasons to introduce foods earlier and full breast-feeding seems to protect the child only in the first three months,” Jonsson said in the press release.
The study was published in the October issue of Acta Paediatrica.
Funding for the study was provided by the Swedish Research Council for Environmental, Agricultural Sciences and Spatial Planning, the Food and Health Concept Centre, the West Gothia Region, the Torsten and Ragnar Söderberg Foundation, the Swedish Federal Government and the Swedish Research Council.
Information on conflict of interest was not available.