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What a mother eats during pregnancy impacts childhood wheezing

Published online: October 30, 2019

Asthma and wheeze remain common conditions of childhood in the United States. Asthma and wheeze can be caused by inflammation, and there is some evidence that a “Westernized” type of diet (which is predominantly processed foods, fast foods, and sweets), has the potential to increase inflammation and risk for respiratory problems. Respiratory problems often manifest themselves early in life, suggesting that the groundwork for their development may begin while in the womb. Maternal diet is a modifiable exposure that may influence risk for respiratory problems later in life in the child. Some types of foods have been associated with higher levels of markers related to inflammation. However, whether the inflammatory potential of a mother’s diet during pregnancy increases the child’s risk for respiratory problems later in life is unknown.
In an article recently published in The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology: In Practice, Hanson and co-authors report the results of a study conducted to determine the extent to which a more pro-inflammatory diet during pregnancy was associated with respiratory outcomes in the offspring. They used the Dietary Inflammatory Index, a score that has been validated in multiple cohorts around the world against various inflammation-related health outcomes. This index has been related to levels of substances in the blood that are markers of inflammation. The authors analyzed data from participants in Project Viva, a longitudinal cohort of mother and child pairs enrolled between 1999 and 2002. A Dietary Inflammatory Index score was calculated for 1,424 mothers from dietary questionnaires administered in pregnancy, and compared with asthma, lung function, and wheeze outcomes in the offspring, at both early and mid-childhood timepoints.

In the analysis, the authors found that the mothers of children who wheezed in early life had a more pro-inflammatory diet, compared with mothers of children who never wheezed. Additionally, a more pro-inflammatory diet early in pregnancy was associated with a lower measure of lung function in the offspring, measured at around 7 years of age. While recommending an anti-inflammatory diet during pregnancy seems prudent, future studies are needed to identify the mechanism linking maternal diet to wheeze and asthma in children.

The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology: In Practice is an official journal of the AAAAI, focusing on practical information for the practicing clinician.

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