A new study says that allergies may start before birth and be directly affected by the mother’s food intake during pregnancy.

The study was conducted by Murdoch Children’s Research Institute in Melbourne, Australia. It looked at key differences in blood samples of babies who have food allergies and those who do not.

Studying the molecular pathways which control how genes are expressed, the researchers found that children with allergies have distinct differences from those who do not. Examining blood samples taken at birth showed that those children diagnosed with food allergies had those markers at the time of birth, indicating that the molecular changes happen in the womb.

This lends credence to the theory that food allergies are, at least in part, based on genetic predisposition and, more importantly, to what mothers eat during pregnancy. Lead author Dr. David Martino of MCRI says these findings give direction for future research into the role a mother’s diet plays in her baby’s allergies. The authors are now embarking on a wider-scale study to reinforce their findings.

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