Article Text

Download PDFPDF
Maternal food consumption during pregnancy and asthma, respiratory and atopic symptoms in 5-year-old children
  1. S M Willers1,2,
  2. G Devereux3,
  3. L C A Craig3,
  4. G McNeill3,4,
  5. A H Wijga2,
  6. W Abou El-Magd3,
  7. S W Turner4,
  8. P J Helms4,
  9. A Seaton3
  1. 1Institute for Risk Assessment Sciences (IRAS), Division of Environmental Epidemiology, Utrecht University, Utrecht, The Netherlands
  2. 2Centre of Prevention and Health Services Research, The National Institute of Public Health and the Environment (RIVM), Bilthoven, The Netherlands
  3. 3Department of Environmental and Occupational Medicine, University of Aberdeen, Aberdeen, UK
  4. 4Department of Child Health, University of Aberdeen, Aberdeen, UK
  1. Correspondence to:
    S M Willers
    MSc, Institute for Risk Assessment Sciences, Division of Environmental Epidemiology, Utrecht University, P O Box 80178, 3508 TD Utrecht, The Netherlands; S.Willers{at}


Background: Associations between maternal vitamin E, vitamin D and zinc intakes during pregnancy and asthma, wheeze and eczema in 5-year-old children have previously been reported. A study was undertaken to investigate whether maternal intake of specific foods during pregnancy is associated with asthma and allergic outcomes in the same children.

Methods: A longitudinal birth cohort study was conducted in 1924 children born to women recruited during pregnancy. Maternal diet during pregnancy was assessed by food frequency questionnaire (FFQ). Cohort children were followed up at 5 years by symptom questionnaire and FFQ. Food groups of interest were fruit, vegetables, fruit juice, whole grain products, fish, dairy products and fat spreads. Trends across outcome groups defined by level of food intake are presented.

Results: 1253 children participated at 5 years and maternal FFQ data were available for 1212. No consistent associations were found between childhood outcomes and maternal intake of the analysed foods except for apples and fish. Maternal apple intake was beneficially associated with ever wheeze (OR highest vs lowest tertile 0.63, 95% CI 0.42 to 0.95), ever asthma (OR 0.54, 95% CI 0.32 to 0.92) and doctor-confirmed asthma (OR 0.47, 95% CI 0.27 to 0.82) in the children. Maternal fish consumption was beneficially associated with doctor-confirmed eczema (OR ⩾1/week vs never 0.57, 95% CI 0.35 to 0.92).

Conclusion: There was no evidence for associations between maternal intake of most foods during pregnancy and asthma, respiratory and allergic outcomes in 5-year-old children, except for apples and fish. Consumption of apples and fish during pregnancy may have a protective effect against the development of childhood asthma and allergic disease.

  • FEV1, forced expiratory volume in 1 s
  • FFQ, food frequency questionnaire

Statistics from

Request Permissions

If you wish to reuse any or all of this article please use the link below which will take you to the Copyright Clearance Center’s RightsLink service. You will be able to get a quick price and instant permission to reuse the content in many different ways.


  • Published Online First 27 March 2007

  • This study was made possible by support from Asthma UK (grant 02/017).

  • Competing interests: None.

Linked Articles