Researchers have determined that the foods a mother eats during pregnancy may make her baby less likely to develop allergies. The study finds that if a mother’s diet includes a certain group of polyunsaturated fatty acids—such as those found in fish, walnut oil, or flaxseeds—the baby will have a healthier immune response to bacteria and foreign substances.
“Our study identifies that a certain group of polyunsaturated fatty acids—known as n-3 PUFAs—causes a change in how a baby’s gut develops, which in turn might change how the gut immune system develops,” says researcher Gaelle Boudry, PhD. “These changes are likely to reduce the risk of developing allergies in later life.”
The research adds to previous studies that have shown that an intake of n-3 PUFAs during pregnancy increases gestational length and maturation of the baby’s central nervous system. “Other studies have found that a diet containing fish or walnut oils during pregnancy may make your baby smarter,” Dr. Boudry adds. She cautions that these fatty acids have been disappearing from the Western diet. “Our dietary intake of fish and nut oils is being replaced by corn oils, which contain a different kind of fatty acid.”