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Does Pregnancy Diet Influence Allergy Outcomes?

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A baby’s allergies can start to develop already in utero and may be influenced by the mother’s habits whilst pregnant, according to a study conducted by the Murdoch Childrens Research Institute in Melbourne.[1]

In this study – which is thought to be the first of its kind – researchers discovered key differences in blood samples of babies who have food allergies compared to those who do not. Comparing blood samples of 12-month-old babies, it was found that infants with allergies had molecular pathways that differed to those in the healthy cohort. What is more, when examining samples collected from allergic children at the time of birth, it was found that these molecular differences were already present when they were born.

“We actually looked at the molecular switches that control how genes are expressed and we found that there was an association with food allergy and disruption in some of these switches”, report author Dr David Martino told the Daily Mail Australia. “This means we think that some of the predisposition of developing food allergies may be already programmed into the developing child as early as pregnancy”, he said.

These findings will assist researchers investigating what factors during pregnancy may modify the behaviour of a baby’s genes, thus providing vital clues into the aetiology of allergies.

Food allergies are a global problem; however Australia has one of the highest rates in the world.

The importance of probiotics

The rapid increase in allergic disease observed worldwide is hypothesised to depend on microbial deprivation early in life. Indeed, differences in the infant gut microbiota in relation to development of allergic disease have been reported in several prospective studies. Early colonisation with bifidobacteria and lactobacilli is postulated to protect children from allergy.[2,3]

Beneficial effects of probiotic supplementation have been most consistent with a combined prenatal and direct postnatal administration and appear to be strain specific, with Lactobacillus rhamnosus most frequently showing an effect.[4]

References

  1. Michael S. Could a woman’s health habits during pregnancy give her baby food allergies? Research shows they start to develop before a baby is born. Daily Mail Australia 10 July 2014 [Link]
     
  2. Johansson MA, Sjogren YM, Persson JO, et al. Early colonisation with a group of Lactobacilli decreases the risk for allergy at five years of age despite allergic heredity. PLoS One 2011;6(8):e23031. [Full Text
     
  3. Sjogren YM, Jenmalm MC, Bottcher MF, et al. Altered early infant gut microbiota in children developing allergy up to 5 years of age. Clin Exp Allergy 2009;39(4):518-526. [Abstract]
     
  4. Kuitunen M. Probiotics and probiotics in preventing food allergy and eczema. Curr Opin Allergy Clin Immunol 2013;13(3):280-286. [Abstract

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