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 a study published in the journal Clinical and Experimental Allergy.
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.
"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, MD, University of Southampton, Southampton, United Kingdom. "The findings point to potentially modifiable influences on this common and distressing condition."
For the study, the researchers assessed the amount of nicotinamide and related tryptophan metabolites during pregnancy in 497 women that took part in the Southampton Women's Survey. The rate of eczema in their children when they were aged 6 months and 12 months was also examined.
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, according to the authors.
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, Southampton Biomedical Research Centre in Nutrition.