Maternal diet and its influence on the development of allergic disease.Clin Exp Allergy 2015; 45(1):63-74CE
The early presentation of childhood allergies and the rise in their prevalence suggest that changes in early-life exposures may increase the predisposition. Very early-life exposures may act upon the developing foetal immune system and include infection, environmental tobacco smoke, other pollutants and nutrients provided via the mother. Three nutrients have come under close scrutiny: vitamin D, omega 3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) and folate (or the synthetic form, folic acid). Much of the data on these nutrients are observational although some randomised, placebo-controlled trials have been conducted with omega 3 PUFAs and one with vitamin D. Some studies with omega 3 PUFA supplements in pregnancy have demonstrated immunomodulatory effects on the neonate and a reduction in risk of early sensitisation to allergens. A few studies with omega 3 polyunsaturated fatty acid supplements in pregnancy have shown a reduction in proportion of children affected by allergic symptoms (food allergy) or in symptom severity (atopic dermatitis). Observational studies investigating the association of maternal vitamin D intake or maternal or neonatal vitamin D status have been inconsistent. One randomised, controlled trial of vitamin D supplementation during pregnancy did not show any significant effect on allergic outcome in the offspring. Studies investigating the association between maternal folic acid or folate intake or maternal or neonatal folate status and offspring risk of allergic disease have been equivocal. Further evidence is required to clarify whether increased intake of these nutrients during pregnancy influences allergic disease in the offspring. In the light of current evidence, mothers should not either increase or avoid consuming these nutrients to prevent or ameliorate allergic disease in their offspring. However, these essential nutrients each have important roles in foetal development. This is reflected in current government recommendations for intake of these nutrients by pregnant women.