Taking fish oil capsules during pregnancy could help women with a family history of eczema to avoid passing on the condition to their children.
A study of 700 pregnant women found that those who took the supplements reduced by one-third the risk their infants would develop eczema, compared with women who took a placebo.
“This is potentially important because these children are the ones considered most likely to develop asthma and respiratory allergies at school age,”
says Maria Makrides of the Women’s and Children’s Health Research Institute in North Adelaide, South Australia, who led the team.
The results echo those from a previous trial in Sweden in 2009, which found that mothers given fish oil capsules were three times less likely than untreated to pass on eczema to their children.
Makrides says the fatty acids of the oil may get incorporated into cell membranes inside the fetus, where they dampen down the inflammation that leads to allergies and eczema. She says that to check the benefits are long lasting, all the children will be followed until they are 6 years old.
Catrin Furuhjelm of Linköping University in Sweden, who headed the 2009 study, is gratified to see her results confirmed.
“In Sweden, the recommendation is for all mothers to eat fish three times a week during pregnancy, and future studies will tell us if there’s a reason to increase this dose.”
Other potential treatments under development for eczema include beneficial bacteria incorporated into probiotic yogurts.
Journal reference: BMJ, DOI: 10.1136/bmj.e184
Watch the short video below to learn other benefits of sufficient omega-3 levels during pregnancy.