Does maternal diet during pregnancy have any influence on health outcomes of children relating to allergies? How about when the mother is
breast-feeding that child? Does her diet then have an influence on the child’s health?
A recent review performed a meta-analysis on 42 studies with a total of greater than 40,000 children to see if maternal diet during pregnancy and during lactation (breast-feeding) played any role in the health of those children.
The studies included in the review varied in nature in terms of their experimental protocols: 11 were intervention studies, 26 were prospective cohort studies, 4 were retrospective cohort studies, and 1 was a case-controlled study. Comparing studies with different experimental designs can be somewhat problematic, but there are ways to compare on a more broad scale.
- There were no significant differences overall in eczema or asthma cases in the offspring of mothers eating a diet free of common food allergens. Some of the studies did note some associations, though nothing statistically significant was found.
- One of the few consistent associations found related to those mothers consuming diets containing a lot of fruits, vegetables, fish, Vitamin D-rich foods, and in general foods pertaining to the Mediterranean diet. Children of these mothers were found to be associated with a lower risk of allergic disease.
- Foods in the diet of pregnant and lactating mothers that were associated with a higher risk of allergic disease in children included vegetable oil, margarine, nuts, and fast food.
While this meta-review did not find statistically significant differences, it does provide some insights that a Mediterranean-like diet may consistently provide some benefit to their offspring in terms of a reduction in allergic disease prevalence. It can be difficult to compare studies that used markedly different experimental designs after the fact, so this positive association should indicate a need for further research on this topic.
Netting, M.J., Middleton, P.F., and Makrides, M. 2014. Does maternal diet during pregnancy and lactation affect outcomes in offspring? A systematic review of food-based approaches. Nutrition 30: 1225-1241.