Fish oils and birds

Pediatrician Bernt Alm of the University of Gothenburg and colleagues used the ongoing Infants of Western Sweden study, following babies born in 2003, to question the parents of 4,921 infants at six months and 12 months after birth on family history, environment, perinatal history, tobacco, breastfeeding, food introduction and diseases.

Nearly 14% of these infants had eczema at six months and 21% had the condition at a year. Another 5% had been diagnosed with a food allergy – most commonly to cow's milk.

The link with family history was consistent with previous findings that 82% of a person’s susceptibility to eczema was genetic. However, early introduction of fish into the diet and having a bird in the home were both associated with a decreased risk. Some studies suggest that contact with feathers might prevent atopic disease, while the fact that birds are usually kept inside at all times, may expose infants to endotoxin which protects against eczema.

The high levels of omega-3 fatty acids in some types of fish might partly explain the association between decreased risk and fish eating, although, because no relationships with specific types of fish and eczema were found, the researchers could not ascribe the effect to omega-3 fatty acids alone.

Archives of Disease in ChildhoodRead more

November 2008

More research on the management of eczema

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