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.