Fish oil supplements in pregnancy ‘may reduce allergies’

Research suggests that taking a daily fish oil capsule during pregnancy and the first few months of breastfeeding may reduce a baby’s risk of food allergy.

According to a large analysis of past trials by Imperial College London, this led to a 30% reduction in egg allergy risk by the age of one.

Fish oil contains a special kind of fat called omega-3 that has a positive, anti-inflammatory effect.Experts said larger trials were needed that followed up children for longer.

But they said the research confirmed that diet during pregnancy could influence the development of allergies in early life.

The allergies are caused by the immune system malfunctioning and over-reacting to these harmless foods, and this triggers symptoms such as rashes, swelling, vomiting and wheezing.

Dr Robert Boyle, lead author of the research, from the department of medicine at Imperial College London, said: “Our research suggests probiotic and fish oil supplements may reduce a child’s risk of developing an allergic condition, and these findings need to be considered when guidelines for pregnant women are updated.”

The supplements contain omega-3 fatty acids, which are also present in oily fish.

Current advice is that pregnant women should eat no more than two portions of oily fish per week because of the levels of mercury in some fish, and avoid shark, swordfish or marlin altogether.