Moms-to-be, take note! Eating foods rich in a type of vitamin B -- such as fish, meat, chicken and mushrooms - during pregnancy may lower the risk of your child developing eczema, a condition that causes the skin to become dry and itchy, a new study has found.
The study from the University of Southampton in the UK is the first to link maternal serum levels of nicotinamide, a naturally occurring vitamin, and related metabolites to the risk of atopic eczema in the child. The researchers believe the findings support the concept that eczema partly originates as a baby develops in the womb and could show ways to reduce the risk of the skin condition.
“Nicotinamide cream has been used in the treatment of eczema but the link between the mother’s levels of nicotinamide during pregnancy and the offspring’s risk of atopic eczema has not been previously studied,” said Sarah El-Heis, from the University of Southampton. “The findings point to potentially modifiable influences on this common and distressing condition,” said El-Heis.
Nicotinamide is a form of vitamin B3. Its level is maintained through intake of foods such as fish, meat, chicken, mushrooms, nuts and coffee as well as tryptophan, an amino acid found in most proteins. Nicotinamide and related nutrients are important for the body’s immune responses and energy metabolism.
The research assessed the amount of nicotinamide and related tryptophan metabolites during pregnancy in 497 women that took part in the Southampton Women’s Survey. The rates of eczema in their children at ages 6 and 12 months was studied.
Results showed that offspring of mothers with higher levels of nicotinamide had a 30% lower chance of developing atopic eczema at 12 months. There was an even stronger association with higher levels of anthranilic acid, a tryptophan metabolite.
Nicotinamide can improve the overall structure, moisture and elasticity of skin and therefore could potentially alter the disease processes associated with eczema, researchers said. The study showed a gradual association between higher maternal nicotinamide and anthranilic acid levels and a lower risk of atopic eczema, suggesting that the development of eczema is not simply prevented by the presence of these nutrients.
“More research is needed to investigate this interesting association, but the findings are further evidence of the potential benefits of eating a healthy balanced diet during pregnancy,” said Keith Godfrey, Director of the Southampton Biomedical Research Centre in Nutrition. The study was published in Clinical and Experimental Allergy.