Background: One factor capable of modulating antenatal immune responses is diet. The present prospective study examined the association between maternal intake of specific types of fatty acids, cholesterol, fish, and meat during pregnancy and the risk of wheeze and eczema in the offspring.
Methods: Subjects were 763 mother-child pairs. Data on maternal intake during pregnancy were assessed with a diet history questionnaire. Data on wheeze and eczema based on criteria of the International Study of Asthma and Allergies in Childhood were obtained from our questionnaire completed by mothers 16-24 months postpartum.
Results: Higher maternal intake of α-linolenic acid and docosahexaenoic acid during pregnancy was independently associated with a reduced risk of wheeze, but not eczema, in the offspring (adjusted ORs between extreme quartiles [95% CIs] = 0.52 [0.28−0.97] and 0.37 [0.15−0.91], respectively). Higher maternal intake of n-6 polyunsaturated fatty acids and linoleic acid during pregnancy was independently related to an increased risk of infantile eczema, but not wheeze (adjusted ORs [95% CIs] = 2.25 [1.13−4.54] and 2.11 [1.06−4.26], respectively). No significant exposure-response relationships were observed between maternal consumption of total fat, saturated fatty acids, monounsaturated fatty acids, eicosapentaenoic acid, arachidonic acid, cholesterol, meat, and fish and the ratio of n-3 to n-6 polyunsaturated fatty acid consumption during pregnancy and infantile wheeze or eczema.
Conclusions: Maternal intake of α-linolenic acid and docosahexaenoic acid during pregnancy may be preventive against infantile wheeze. Maternal intake of n-6 polyunsaturated fatty acids, especially linoleic acid, during pregnancy may increase the risk of childhood eczema.