Increased Intakes of EPA plus DHA during Pregnancy and Lessened Wheeze in Infants

January 6, 2014


Maternal Fat Intake during Pregnancy and Wheeze and Eczema in Japanese Infants: the Kyushu Okinawa Maternal and Child Health Study
Miyake, Y. et al., Annals of Epidemiology, 23: 674-680 , 2013
Dept. of Preventive Medicine and Public Health, Faculty of Medicine, Fukuoka University, Fukuoka, Japan


There is literature evidence from some clinical trials that higher intakes of omega-3 fatty acids during pregnancy might offer protection against subsequent allergic disorders in infants and toddlers. The present study from Japan in 1354 mother-child pairs estimated maternal fatty acid intakes during pregnancy via food history questionnaires and food composition tables. Questionnaires were subsequently employed to assess symptoms of wheeze and eczema amongst the infants based on the International Study of Asthma and Allergies in Childhood.

The overall prevalence of wheeze and eczema were 27.6 % and 19.9 %, respectively, among the children with 89 % of the infants having been breastfed for 6 months or longer. Infants from mothers with the highest intakes (top 25 % or ‘quartile’) of EPA and (EPA plus DHA) exhibited a significantly lower prevalence of wheeze – lower by 27 % and 30 %, respectively, as compared to those from mothers with the lowest intakes. The intake of the short-chain omega-3 (alpha-LNA) exhibited no relation to the prevalence of wheeze. No relation of omega-3 intakes to infant eczema was found. The authors concluded that higher maternal intakes of EPA and (EPA plus DHA) during pregnancy may reduce the risk of infantile wheeze.

Dr. Holub's Comments:

It should be pointed out that the median intakes of EPA and (EPA plus DHA) by mothers in the highest ‘quartile’ of the present study from Japan were 280 mg/day and 730 mg/day, respectively. These intakes are much higher than such in North America and reflect much higher regular intakes of fish/seafood by the former population. Our research group at the Univ. of Guelph reported average intakes of EPA and (EPA plus DHA) to be only 35 mg/day and 117 mg/day, respectively, when assessed directly in pregnant mothers (J. Nutrition, 135: 206-211, 2005).

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