No Scaly Skin for Little Fish Eaters
October 16, 2008—Giving fish to children when they’re young may help protect them from developing eczema, say Swedish researchers. With a rise in the prevalence of allergic diseases worldwide, simple moves like adding fish to the diet are a welcome strategy to prevent uncomfortable reactions like eczema.
The itch that rashes
Eczema tends to start with an itch that, when scratched, results in the appearance of a red, scaly, and sometimes oozing rash. In infants, the rash is most commonly seen on the forehead, cheeks, forearms, legs, neck, and scalp. Many people with eczema have a family history of the disease, and it often occurs in conjunction with other allergic conditions like asthma and hay fever. Eczema usually appears during the first few months of life; while many children outgrow their eczema by adolescence, for others it persists into adulthood.
It’s no fish tale
Many factors have been suggested to increase eczema risk—early introduction of allergenic foods like milk and eggs, lack of breast-feeding, and parental smoking—but none of these has been proven. The new study published in the Archives of Disease in Childhood investigated the dietary and lifestyle habits of 4,921 infants and their families to gain insight into the causes of the disease.
During the babies’ first year, 21% developed eczema. The researchers found that babies who ate fish before nine months of age had a 24% lower chance of developing eczema than those who didn’t eat fish until they were older. Type of fish eaten, being breast-fed, parental smoking, furry pets in the household, and timing of milk and egg introduction did not seem to affect the children’s risk, but family history—especially a mother or sibling with eczema—was a significant disease predictor.
Best fish picks
While genetics can’t be changed, diet can. Adding fish to youngsters’ diets may help prevent eczema development, with the added benefit of supporting healthy brain and eye development. “From our findings it is not as much the quantity of fish as the timing of introduction that carries the beneficial effects. It is therefore possible to introduce fish at an early time, perhaps as early as six to nine months of age,” says Dr. Bernt Alm, lead author of the study.
Most experts recommend that children under age 12 eat no more than 12 ounces of fish per week, in order to minimize exposure to mercury and other possible contaminants.
• The least contaminated fish include catfish, flounder, haddock, pollock, wild-caught salmon, scallops, shrimp, and tilapia. Canned chunk light tuna has moderate mercury levels.
• The fish most contaminated with mercury should be avoided by children: king mackerel, marlin, orange roughy, shark, swordfish, tilefish, and tuna (ahi, bigeye, and albacore).
(Arch Dis Child;doi:10.1136/adc.2008.140418)
Kimberly Beauchamp, ND, earned her bachelor’s degree from the University of Rhode Island and her Doctorate of Naturopathic Medicine from Bastyr University in Kenmore, WA. She cofounded South County Naturopaths in Wakefield, RI. Dr. Beauchamp practices as a birth doula and lectures on topics including whole-foods nutrition, detoxification, and women’s health.
Copyright © 2008 Aisle7. All rights reserved. Republication or redistribution of the Aisle7 content is expressly prohibited without the prior written consent of Aisle7. Healthnotes Newswire is for educational or informational purposes only, and is not intended to diagnose or provide treatment for any condition. If you have any concerns about your own health, you should always consult with a healthcare professional. Aisle7 shall not be liable for any errors or delays in the content, or for any actions taken in reliance thereon. Aisle7 and the Aisle7 logo are registered trademarks of Aisle7.