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Maternal Diet Rich in Vitamin C May Prevent Allergies in Infants

A recent Australian study suggests that an antioxidant rich diet during pregnancy is associated with reduced risk of allergic diseases at one year of age.

As a supply of all nutrients, maternal diet has significant potential to modify the success or failure of immune tolerance and consequently the development of allergic disease in the offspring.  Maternal dietary changes in pregnancy are one of the key environmental factors implicated in the allergy epidemic.  Declining antioxidant intake is one of the many dietary changes associated with the steep increase in allergic disease. It has been hypothesized that antioxidant rich diets may provide protective effect against the development of asthma.

An Australian study assessed the effects of maternal intakes of selected antioxidants (β-carotene, vitamin C, vitamin E, copper and zinc) in pregnancy on early infant allergic outcomes, including eczema, Immunoglobulin E (IgE)-mediated food allergy, allergic sensitisation and wheeze in a population at high risk of developing allergic disease based on family history.  300 mother-infant pairs were recruited for the study.  The main clinical outcome measures were prevalence of eczema, IgE-mediated food allergy, allergic sensitization, and respiratory symptoms at 12 months of age.

The study showed that higher maternal dietary vitamin C intake was associated with a reduced risk of diagnosed infant allergic disease at one year of age; higher maternal dietary vitamin C intake was also associated with a reduced risk of wheeze.  Higher dietary copper intake was associated with reduced risk of eczema, wheeze and any allergic disease.

This study reinforced observations from previous studies on the protective effects of foods rich in vitamin C and copper.  Further studies are needed to assess the complex composite effects of specific antioxidants, as well as dietary patterns during pregnancy.

Source: Christine E. West et al. Nutrients 2012, 4:1747-1758

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