Research into the use of nutritional supplements during pregnancy and infant allergy prevention remains inconclusive. Focus has been placed on the potential benefits of maternal vitamin and mineral intake however studies thus far have found no clear evidence of an effect on infant allergy or eczema risk. At present there is insufficient evidence to recommend maternal intake of routine probiotics during pregnancy to prevent food allergy. There continues to be a lack of good understanding of the mechanisms through which probiotics might prevent allergic outcomes.
In their position paper on primary prevention of food allergy, The European Academy of Allergy and Clinical Immunology (EAACI) concluded that there is currently a lack of evidence to support any recommendation that pregnant or breastfeeding women should take probiotic supplements in order to prevent food allergies. Evidence does however suggest that there may be beneficial effect of omega-3 fatty acid ingestion during pregnancy in relation to the reduction in risk of eczema and development of allergy antibodies (allergic sensitisation) in early life. Pregnant women should continue to limit oily fish intake to twice per week, as the benefits of omega-3 fatty intake are however outweighed by the risk of possible toxicity if eaten in larger amounts. Further research is required in this area.
General health recommendations in pregnancy continue to advise the following;
The use of a non-cow’s milk based formula (such as soya) or a specialist ‘low allergy’ or hypoallergenic formula, when breastfeeding if not possible has not been consistently shown to prevent food allergy or allergic disease in infants.
In summary, currently there is no recommendation for or against the following: use of vitamin supplements, fish oil, prebiotics, probiotics or synbiotics in pregnancy, when breastfeeding or in infancy; altering the duration of exclusive breastfeeding; and use of hydrolysed infant formulas in allergy prevention. Strategies to prevent food allergy remains unclear, and further multinational research is required.