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Accumulating evidence suggests that in utero exposures can influence the development of the immune system. Few studies have investigated whether prenatal exposure to persistent organic pollutants (POPs) is associated with allergy-related phenotypes in childhood, nor explored sex differences. We examined the association between prenatal exposure to POPs and offspring allergic outcomes in early and mid-childhood. We included 682 mother–child pairs from the prospective birth cohort Rhea. We measured dichlorodiphenyldichloroethylene (DDE), hexachlorobenzene (HCB) and 6 polychlorinated biphenyl (PCB) congeners in maternal first trimester serum. Parents completed the questionnaires adapted from the International Study on Asthma and Allergy in Childhood (ISAAC) for allergy-related phenotypes when their children were 4 and 6 years old. We used Poisson regression models to estimate Risk Ratios. Prenatal HCB was associated with increased risk for rhinoconjunctivitis at 6 years (RR (95% CI): 2.5; (1.3, 4.8) for a doubling in the exposure). Among girls, prenatal DDE was associated with increased risk for current wheeze, current asthma and current rhinoconjunctivitis at 4 years (RR (95%CI): 1.4 (0.8, 2.6), 1.6 (1.1, 2.4) and 1.8 (1.0, 3.3) and p-interaction = 0.035, 0.027 and 0.059, respectively), with increased risk for current rhinoconjunctivitis at 6 years (RR (95%CI): 1.7 (0.7, 3.8) and p-interaction = 0.028) and total PCBs were associated with increased risk for current eczema at 4 years (RR (95%CI): 2.1 (1.1, 4.2) and p-interaction = 0.028). In boys, prenatal DDE was associated with decreased risk for current wheeze and current asthma at 4 years. Our findings suggest that even low levels of exposure to POPs prenatally may affect the development of childhood allergy-related outcomes in a sex and age-specific manner.
Lower prenatal exposure to n-3 PUFA relative to n-6 PUFA has been hypothesised to influence allergy development, but evidence remains largely inconsistent. In the Dutch Maastricht Essential Fatty Acid Birth (MEFAB) (n 293) and Greek RHEA Mother–Child (n 213) cohorts, we investigated whether cord blood phospholipid PUFA concentrations are associated with symptoms of wheeze, asthma, rhinitis and eczema at the age of 6–7 years. Information on allergy-related phenotypes was collected using validated questionnaires. We estimated relative risks (RR) and 95 % CI for associations of PUFA with child outcomes using multivariable generalised linear regression models. In pooled analyses, higher concentration of the n-3 long-chain EPA and DHA and a higher total n-3:n-6 PUFA ratio were associated with lower risk of current wheeze (RR 0·61; 95 % CI 0·45, 0·82 per sd increase in EPA+DHA and 0·54; 95 % CI 0·39, 0·75 per unit increase in the n-3:n-6 ratio) and reduced asthma risk (RR 0·50; 95 % CI 0·31, 0·79 for EPA+DHA and 0·43; 95 % CI 0·26, 0·70 for the n-3:n-6 ratio). No associations were observed for other allergy-related phenotypes. The results were similar across cohorts. In conclusion, higher EPA and DHA concentrations and a higher n-3:n-6 fatty acid ratio at birth were associated with lower risk of child wheeze and asthma. Our findings suggest that dietary interventions resulting in a marked increase in the n-3:n-6 PUFA ratio, and mainly in n-3 long-chain PUFA intake in late gestation, may reduce the risk of asthma symptoms in mid-childhood.
Early-life nutrition is critical for optimal brain development; however, few studies have evaluated the impact of diet as a whole in early childhood on neurological development with inconsistent results. The present analysis is a cross-sectional study nested within an ongoing prospective birth cohort, the Rhea study, and aims to examine the association of dietary patterns with cognitive and psychomotor development in 804 preschool (mean age 4·2 years) children. Parents completed a validated FFQ, and dietary patterns were identified using principal component analysis. Child cognitive and psychomotor development was assessed by the McCarthy Scales of Children’s Abilities (MSCA). Multivariable linear regression models were used to investigate the associations of dietary patterns with the MSCA scales. After adjustment for a large number of confounding factors, the ‘Snacky’ pattern (potatoes and other starchy roots, salty snacks, sugar products and eggs) was negatively associated with the scales of verbal ability (β=−1·31; 95 % CI −2·47, −0·16), general cognitive ability (β=−1·13; 95 % CI −2·25, −0·02) and cognitive functions of the posterior cortex (β=−1·20; 95 % CI −2·34, −0·07). Further adjustment for maternal intelligence, folic acid supplementation and alcohol use during pregnancy attenuated the observed associations, but effect estimates remained at the same direction. The ‘Western’ and the ‘Mediterranean’ patterns were not associated with child neurodevelopmental scales. The present findings suggest that poorer food choices at preschool age characterised by foods high in fat, salt and sugar are associated with reduced scores in verbal and cognitive ability.
To estimate the associations of individual maternal social capital and social capital dimensions (Participation in the Community, Feelings of Safety, Value of Life and Social Agency, Tolerance of Diversity) with adherence to the Mediterranean diet during pregnancy.
This is a cross-sectional analysis of data from a prospective mother–child cohort (Rhea Study). Participants completed a social capital questionnaire and an FFQ in mid-pregnancy. Mediterranean diet adherence was evaluated through an a priori score ranging from 0 to 8 (minimal–maximal adherence). Maternal social capital scores were categorized into three groups: the upper 10 % was the high social capital group, the middle 80 % was the medium and the lowest 10 % was the low social capital group. Multivariable log-binomial and linear regression models adjusted for confounders were performed.
Heraklion, Crete, Greece.
A total of 377 women with singleton pregnancies.
High maternal Total Social Capital was associated with an increase of almost 1 point in Mediterranean diet score (highest v. lowest group: β coefficient=0·95, 95 % CI 0·23, 1·68), after adjustment for confounders. Similar dose–response effects were noted for the scale Tolerance of Diversity (highest v. lowest group: adjusted β coefficient=1·08, 95 % CI 0·39, 1·77).
Individual social capital and tolerance of diversity are associated with adherence to the Mediterranean diet in pregnancy. Women with higher social capital may exhibit a higher sense of obligation to themselves and to others that may lead to proactive nutrition-related activities. Less tolerant women may not provide the opportunity to new healthier, but unfamiliar, nutritional recommendations to become part of their regular diet.
Maternal diet during pregnancy might influence the development of childhood allergic disorders. The aim of the present study was to evaluate the impact of Mediterranean diet (MD) adherence during pregnancy on wheeze and eczema in the first year of life in two population-based mother–child cohorts in Spain and Greece. We studied 1771 mother–newborn pairs from the Spanish multi-centre ‘INMA’ (INfancia y Medio Ambiente) study (Gipuzkoa, Sabadell and Valencia) and 745 pairs from the ‘RHEA’ study in Crete, Greece. The symptoms of wheeze and eczema were based on the criteria of the International Study of Asthma and Allergies in Childhood. Maternal diet during pregnancy was assessed by FFQ and MD adherence was evaluated through an a priori score. Multivariate log-binomial regression models were used to adjust for several confounders in each cohort and summary estimates were obtained by a meta-analysis. MD adherence was not associated with the risk of wheeze and eczema in any cohort, and similar results were identified in the meta-analysis approach. High meat intake (relative risk (RR) 1·22, 95 % CI 1·00, 1·49) and ‘processed’ meat intake (RR 1·18, 95 % CI 1·02, 1·37) during pregnancy were associated with an increased risk of wheeze in the first year of life, while a high intake of dairy products was significantly associated with a decreased risk of infantile wheeze (RR 0·83, 95 % CI 0·72, 0·96). The results of the present study show that high meat intake during pregnancy may increase the risk of wheeze in the first year of life, while a high intake of dairy products may decrease it.
To investigate whether high doses of folic acid supplementation in early pregnancy are associated with child neurodevelopment at 18 months of age.
The study uses data from the prospective mother–child cohort ‘Rhea’ study. Pregnant women completed an interviewer-administered questionnaire on folic acid supplementation at 14–18 weeks of gestation. Neurodevelopment at 18 months was assessed with the use of the Bayley Scales of Infant and Toddler Development (3rd edition). Red-blood-cell folate concentrations in cord blood were measured in a sub-sample of the study population (n 58).
Heraklion, Crete, Greece, 2007–2010.
Five hundred and fifty-three mother–child pairs participating in the ‘Rhea’ cohort.
Sixty-eight per cent of the study participants reported high doses of supplemental folic acid use (5 mg/d), while 24 % reported excessive doses of folic acid (>5 mg/d) in early pregnancy. Compared with non-users, daily intake of 5 mg supplemental folic acid was associated with a 5-unit increase on the scale of receptive communication and a 3·5-unit increase on the scale of expressive communication. Doses of folic acid supplementation higher than 5 mg/d were not associated with additional increase in the neurodevelopmental scales.
This is the first prospective study showing that high doses of supplementary folic acid in early pregnancy may be associated with enhanced vocabulary development, communicational skills and verbal comprehension at 18 months of age. Additional longitudinal studies and trials are needed to confirm these results.
Dietary intake of specific nutrients or food groups during pregnancy could influence fetal growth, but scant evidence is available on effects of dietary patterns. The aim of this study was to evaluate the impact of Mediterranean diet (MD) adherence during pregnancy on fetal growth in two population-based mother–child cohorts in Spain and Greece. We studied 2461 mother–newborn pairs from the Spanish multi-centre ‘INMA’ study (Atlantic area: INMA-Atlantic; Mediterranean area: INMA-Mediterranean), and 889 pairs from the ‘RHEA’ study in Crete, Greece. Maternal diet during pregnancy was assessed by FFQ and MD adherence was evaluated through an a priori score. Fetal growth restriction was based on a customised model, and multivariate log-binomial and linear regression models were used to adjust for several confounders. MD scores differ significantly between the cohorts with women in INMA-Atlantic reporting higher intakes of fish and dairy products, while women in the Mediterranean area reported higher intakes of cereals, vegetables and fruits. Women with high MD adherence had a significantly lower risk of delivering a fetal growth–restricted infant for weight (risk ratios: 0·5; 95 % CI 0·3, 0·9) in the INMA-Mediterranean cohort. Stratified analysis by smoking revealed that higher MD adherence increased birth weight and birth length in smoking mothers, whereas this effect was not apparent in non-smoking mothers. The results of the present study show that several types of MD exist across European Mediterranean regions. High MD adherence may modify the detrimental effect of smoking on birth size, but overall effects of diet were not universal for the studies in this analysis.
To identify and describe dietary patterns in a cohort of pregnant women, and investigate whether dietary patterns during pregnancy are related to postpartum depression (PPD).
The study uses data from the prospective mother–child cohort ‘Rhea’ study. Pregnant women completed an FFQ in mid-pregnancy and the Edinburg Postpartum Depression Scale (EPDS) at 8–10 weeks postpartum. Dietary patterns during pregnancy (‘health conscious’, ‘Western’) were identified using principal component analysis. Associations between dietary patterns categorized in tertiles and PPD symptoms were investigated by multivariable regression models after adjusting for confounders.
Heraklion, Crete, Greece, 2007–2010.
A total of 529 women, participating in the ‘Rhea’ cohort.
High adherence to a ‘health conscious’ diet, characterized by vegetables, fruit, pulses, nuts, dairy products, fish and olive oil, was associated with lower EPDS scores (highest v. lowest tertile: β-coefficient = −1·75, P = 0·02). Women in the second (relative risk (RR) = 0·52, 95 % CI 0·30, 0·92) or third tertile (RR = 0·51, 95 % CI 0·25, 1·05) of the ‘health conscious’ dietary pattern were about 50 % less likely to have high levels of PPD symptoms (EPDS ≥ 13) compared with those in the lowest tertile.
This is the first prospective study showing that a healthy diet during pregnancy is associated with reduced risk for PPD. Additional longitudinal studies and trials are needed to confirm these findings.
To estimate the dietary intake of total polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH) and benzo(a)pyrene (BaP), and to characterise factors associated with higher intake during pregnancy. Recent studies suggest that prenatal exposure to PAH is associated with adverse reproductive outcomes. Other than tobacco smoke and occupational exposures, diet is the main source of human PAH exposure.
Prospective birth cohort study. Dietary exposure to total PAH and BaP was calculated combining food consumption data and estimated PAH concentrations in foods. One-way ANOVA was used to assess differences in intake among non-smokers, passive or active smokers. Linear regression was used to assess factors related to higher intake, and associations between dietary PAH and birth weight.
Sabadell, Spain, 2004–2006.
Women (n 657) recruited during the first trimester of pregnancy.
The mean dietary intake of BaP and total PAH was significantly higher among active (0·199 and 10·207 μg/d, respectively) and passive smokers (0·196 and 9·458 μg/d) than among non-smokers (0·181 and 8·757 μg/d; P value < 0·005). Maternal age, educational level and region of origin were also associated with higher BaP intake. In all women, major contributors to PAH intake were processed/cured meats, cereals/potatoes and shellfish. Elevated first trimester dietary BaP was associated with a significant reduction in birth weight (fourth v. first quartile: β = −142·73 g, P value < 0·05).
Active and passive smokers had higher dietary PAH exposure during pregnancy because of higher intake of processed meats and shellfish. As tobacco smoke is an additional route of PAH exposure, the added dietary burden in these women is of concern.
To analyse the relationship between maternal intakes of fish and other seafood during pregnancy and child neurodevelopment at age 4 years. Although pregnant women are advised to limit seafood intakes because of possible neurotoxin contamination, several studies suggest that overall maternal seafood intakes are associated with improved child neurodevelopment, perhaps because of higher DHA intakes.
The study uses data from a prospective birth cohort study. Maternal seafood intakes were assessed using a semi-quantitative FFQ administered shortly after delivery. Multivariate linear regression was used to estimate associations between seafood consumption and scores on the McCarthy Scales of Children’s Abilities (MCSA). Analyses were stratified by breast-feeding duration as breast milk is a source of DHA during the postnatal phase of the brain growth spurt.
Menorca, Spain, 1997–2001.
Full-term children (n 392) with data on maternal diet in pregnancy, breast-feeding duration and neurodevelopment at age 4 years.
Among children breast-fed for <6 months, maternal fish intakes of >2–3 times/week were associated with significantly higher scores on several MCSA subscales compared with intakes ≤1 time/week. There was no association among children breast-fed for longer periods. Maternal intakes of other seafood (shellfish/squid) were, however, inversely associated with scores on several subscales, regardless of breast-feeding duration.
The study suggests that moderately high intakes of fish, but not other seafood, during pregnancy may be beneficial for neurodevelopment among children breast-fed for <6 months. Further research in other populations with high seafood intakes and data on additional potential confounders are needed to confirm this finding.
To discuss current evidence about the relation between prenatal and childhood Mediterranean diet, and the development of asthma and allergies in children.
Review of the literature.
Setting and results
Four recent studies conducted in Mediterranean countries (Spain, Greece) and one conducted in Mexico evaluated the association between childhood Mediterranean diet and asthma outcomes in children. All of the studies reported beneficial associations between a high level of adherence to the Mediterranean diet during childhood and symptoms of asthma or allergic rhinitis. Individual foods or food groups contributing to the protective effect of Mediterranean diet included fish, fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts and cereals, while detrimental components included red meat, margarine and junk food intake.
Two studies focused on prenatal Mediterranean diet: the first is a birth cohort in Spain that showed a protective effect of a high adherence to the Mediterranean diet during pregnancy on persistent wheeze, atopic wheeze and atopy at the age of 6·5 years; while the second is a cross-sectional study in Mexico, collecting information more than 6 years after pregnancy, that showed no associations between maternal Mediterranean diet during pregnancy and allergic symptoms in childhood except for current sneezing.
Findings from recent studies suggest that a high level of adherence to the Mediterranean diet early in life protects against the development of asthma and atopy in children. Further studies are needed to better understand the mechanisms of this protective effect, to evaluate the most relevant window of exposure, and to address specific components of diet in relation to disease.
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