Infant allergies found to be influenced by diet of mother
A study conducted by scientists at INRA research institute in Rennes, France, and recently published in the Journal of Physiology, has revealed a possible connection between the mother's diet and her baby's immune development.
The scientists looked at a specific group of polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs), which can be obtained from raw, vegan sources, such as flaxseed, chia seed and walnut oil, and how it models the baby's gut. If the mother's diet is high in such fats, the gut of the baby will develop significantly different from that of a baby whose mother did not consume sufficient amounts of polyunsaturated fatty acids.
PUFAs are responsible for training the immune system to adequately respond to the presence of bacteria and other pathogens, successfully reducing the incidence of allergies in infants.
Dr Gaelle Boudry, who led the research team for this study, pointed out: "There is intense research interest in maternal diet during pregnancy. In the western diet, the group of polyunsaturated fatty acids that we have shown to help gut function are actually disappearing -- our dietary intake of fish and nut oils is being replaced by corn oils which contain a different kind of fatty acid."
Until recently, scientific studies had been able to identify a clear connection between oil consumption in mothers and a reduced risk of allergy in infants, but how these two elements link together was not yet known. Past studies have also revealed that an increased consumption of polyunsaturated fats can, in fact, increase the length of the gestational period, as well as improve the development of the central nervous system of a baby - with effects on performance and intelligence becoming noticeable during childhood.
The group of targeted polyunsaturated fats is known as n-3PUFA, and it is responsible for making the baby's gut lining more permeable to foreign agents, which, upon reaching the bloodstream, trigger an immune response coupled with the production of antibodies to repel the pathogens. These types of acids, also called omega-3 essential fats, have been linked to a multitude of biological functions, ranging from brain development to cellular growth and cardiovascular health.
Dr. Boudry further explained that "the end result is that the baby's immune system may develop and mature faster, leading to better immune function and a reduced likelihood of suffering allergies". Recent medical statistics have shown that the consumption of omega-3 fatty acids in the general population has decreased steadily over the years and that this correlates to an increased risk of allergies and hypersensitization in children.
Although this specific study was conducted on piglets, the French science team plans on furthering their research to see how their findings translate to humans. Piglets were especially selected for this study, as their intestinal tracts are fairly similar to the human gut, and data obtained from them is likely relevant to humans as well. Moreover, Dr. Boudry has expressed interest for the future in studying how an increased omega-3 intake can help fight allergies during adulthood.
Sources for this article include: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/09/110908161444.htm http://www.upi.com/Health_News/2011/09/11/Mothers-diet-may-affect-babys-allergies/UPI-24341315714096/?spt=hs&or=hn http://medicalxpress.com/news/2011-09-mother-diet-baby-allergies-.html