Royal Prince Alfred Hospital Royal Prince Alfred Hospital
Allergy Unit

Student research

Current Trends of High Allergen and Essential Fatty Acid Food intakes
in Women of Childbearing age

Felicity Keller
Master of Science (Nutrition, Dietetics and Exercise Rehabilitation), University of Wollongong
Supervisors: Velencia Soutter, Robert Loblay, Anne Swain
October 2006

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Background: The pathogenesis of allergy has been associated with early exposure to various food proteins and the essential fatty acid (EFA) content of the diet. Current recommendations suggest women should not eliminate foods from their diet during pregnancy and lactation to reduce the risk of nutritional compromise to both the mother and child (Prescott and Tang, 2005).

Objectives: This study aimed to (1) To compare the current dietary intakes of high allergen foods including nuts, fish, milk and eggs and EFA (omega-6 and omega-3) in women of childbearing age to those pregnant and/or lactating women; (2) To identify whether women of childbearing age are meeting the current Australian Dietary Guidelines intake for nuts, fish, milk and eggs and EFA (omega-6 and omega-3).

Methods: A total of 186 women aged 19-50 participated in this cross-sectional study by completing a Food Frequency Questionnaire (FFQ). Data on current intakes were collected and analysed, significant differences were determined using ANOVA and t-tests (p<0.05).

Results: Significant differences were found between nut intakes in women aged 35-50 years (n=67) and lactating women (n=18) and intakes of omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids in lactating women compared to all other groups. The ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 was significantly different for all groups.

Conclusion: Women of childbearing age are not meeting the current dietary recommendations for nuts, fish, milk and eggs which may influence the similar trend found for EFA. More research is warranted to determine the exact effect of high allergen food intake and the EFA status during pregnancy and lactation on the prevalence of atopy in children.

References: Prescott S & Tang M 2005, The Australasian Society of Clinical Immunology and Allergy position statement: summary of allergy prevention in children. Medical Journal of Australia 182(9): 464-467