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Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Peanut, milk and wheat intake during pregnancy is associated with reduced allergy and asthma in children

The relationship between maternal diet and childhood allergy and asthma is controversial.  Not long ago, the American Academy of Pediatrics advised that maternal dietary restrictions are not necessary with the possible exception of excluding peanuts.  Subsequent systematic reviews concluded that the evidence was inadequate to support any dietary restrictions during pregnancy. In fact, recent research suggests that fetal exposure to common food allergens may be beneficial. Bunyavanich et al examined the associations between maternal intake of common childhood food allergens during pregnancy and childhood asthma and allergies (J Allergy Clin Immunol 2014; 133(5): 1373-1382).
The authors studied a healthy pre-birth cohort of 1277 mother-child pairs from the United States and used food frequency questionnaires administered during pregnancy. Children were assessed for food allergy, asthma, allergic rhinitis, and atopic dermatitis by questionnaire and serum specific IgE levels at a mean age of 7.9 years. They discovered that higher maternal peanut intake during the first trimester was associated with 47% reduced odds of peanut allergic reaction. Higher milk intake during the first trimester was associated with reduced asthma and allergic rhinitis, while higher maternal wheat intake during the second trimester was associated with reduced atopic dermatitis. The authors discuss that the first trimester is a formative period of fetal immune development and the mother’s diet may influence helper T cell differentiation as well as fetal airway differentiation. 

The results of this study do not support avoidance of specific foods during pregnancy to prevent allergy and asthma in children.  The authors conclude that the inclusion of peanut, milk, and wheat during pregnancy could be beneficial for the prevention of allergic diseases.

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