Infants whose mothers had a higher level of a particular type of vitamin B during pregnancy have a lower risk of eczema at age 12 months, according to UK researchers.
The study, by the University of Southampton, is the first to link maternal serum levels of nicotinamide, a naturally occurring vitamin, to the subsequent risk of atopic eczema in the child.
“More research is needed to investigate this interesting association”
Nicotinamide is a form of vitamin B3. Its level is maintained by eating foods such as fish, meat, chicken, mushrooms, nuts and coffee as well as tryptophan, an amino acid found in most proteins.
The researchers believe the findings support the concept that eczema partly originates as a baby develops in the womb and could reveal ways of reducing the risk of the skin condition.
Lead study author Dr Sarah El-Heis said: “The findings point to potentially modifiable influences on this common and distressing 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,” she noted.
The study, published in Clinical and Experimental Allergy, assessed the amount of nicotinamide and related tryptophan metabolites during pregnancy in 497 women taking part in the Southampton Women’s Survey. The rates of eczema in their children at ages six 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, the researchers suggested.
Professor Keith Godfrey, director of the NIHR Southampton Biomedical Research Centre in Nutrition, added: “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.”
The Southampton Women’s Survey is the only study in Europe of women and their children, for which information was obtained on the mothers before conception. The researchers aim is to learn more about the dietary and lifestyle factors that influence the health of women and their children.