ANTIOXIDANT intake during pregnancy and its association with the development of allergic disease has been assessed in research by local and international collaborators.
The study published in Nutrients, found maternal dietary intake of vitamin C reduced the risk of infant wheeze while copper intake was associated with reduced risk of eczema, wheeze and any allergic disease in a cohort predisposed to allergic disease.
Umeå University’s Christina West, who completed research while at UWA, says the findings relate to dietary intake of antioxidants and that research did not observe any dietary supplement use effects.
“This might actually be an indication that there are other qualities in this maternal diet and not only the specific antioxidant that provided the beneficial effects,” Dr West says.
“So although we do see this effect of vitamin C and copper we also need to have a more holistic view when it comes to diet.”
Associations between maternal intakes of beta-carotene, vitamin C, vitamin E, Copper and Zinc were studied in relation to development of allergies in infants, in particular; wheeze, eczema, Immunoglobulin E (IgE) sensitisation and IgE-mediated food allergy.
“The reason we looked at these specific antioxidants was that limited number of studies have looked at vitamin E and C and they have suggested beneficial association however these previous studies have not had very thorough clinical examination,” Dr West says.
“So we wanted to use our cohort to actually clinically assess the children and diagnose them at 12 months of age and try to link the type of antioxidants to clinical outcomes.”
Dr West says the protective effects of vitamin C in allergic disease have been noted in previous studies however the immune effects of copper deficiency in humans is largely unknown.
Copper requirements increase during pregnancy and low intake can negatively effect developing tissues and organ systems including lungs, skin and immune system.
Other research has found low copper intake in pregnant rodents led to reduced proliferation of development of the T cells, which are important in orchestrating the immune response.
Three hundred mother–infant pairs involved in the ‘postnatal infant fish oil study’ gave full data.
Pregnant mothers in their third trimester completed the CSIRO’s semi-quantitative food frequency questionnaire, where daily food intake was amounted into antioxidant intake per calorie.
Clinical assessment, at Princess Margaret Hospital, of children at one year of age involved mothers filling out another questionnaire regarding symptoms of allergic disease including reactions to foods, eczema and respiratory symptoms.
Skin prick tests and specific eczema tests were also performed to officially diagnose the allergies.
Statistical analysis adjusted for variables such as exposure to pets, maternal education, delivery method at birth and history of allergic disease.
NOTES: Find out more on an on-going collaboration between Dr West and UWA’s Susan Prescott, academic lead of the international network in-FLAME here.