Some scientists suggest that the rise of allergies in many countries has been connected to a lack of omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids in people’s diets.
These acids are essential to many functions in the body. Because body does not produce them, they must be consumed in food and supplements such as fish oil.
Research has found that taking fish oil supplements during pregnancy may reduce allergy risk in babies, but a study from Australia examined the effect of fish oil given directly to infants.
"Questions? Ask what your pediatrician recommends."
Susan Prescott, MD, a pediatric allergist and professor at the University of Western Australia in Perth, led a study examining the potential benefits of fish oil taken by babies during the first six months of their lives.
Dr. Prescott and her team studied 420 infants of allergic women—218 received a fish oil supplement and 202 received a placebo of olive oil.
When the infants reached six months of age, scientists noted increased levels of the fatty acids in the fish oil group. But they could find no difference between the groups on eczema, asthma or food allergy risk.
Another study looking at children aged 6 months to 1 year old also found that fish oil did not seem to prevent allergies.
"Fish oil supplementation during very early infancy was not effective in preventing allergic disease,” wrote Dr. Prescott.
Based on these results and previous studies, Dr. Prescott and her colleagues suggest that omega-3 fatty acid supplements have the most benefit for infants when mothers take them during pregnancy.
This study is published in the October 2012 edition of the journal Pediatrics. The project was funded by a grant from the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) of Australia. No conflicts of interest were noted.