Background: Fish consumption during infancy has been regarded as a risk factor for allergic disease but later evidence suggests a protective role. However, methodological limitations in the studies make conclusions uncertain. The aim of this study was to assess the association between fish consumption during the first year of life and development of allergic diseases by age 4.
Methods: A prospective birth cohort of 4089 new-born infants was followed for 4 years using parental questionnaires at ages 2 months, 1, 2 and 4 years to collect information on exposure and health effects. The response rate at 4 years was 90%. A clinical investigation was performed at age 4 years, which included blood sampling for analysis of specific IgE to common food and airborne allergens.
Results: Parental allergic disease and onset of eczema or wheeze during the first year of life delayed introduction of fish in the child's diet. After exclusion of such children to avoid disease-related modification of exposure, regular fish consumption during the first year of life was associated with a reduced risk for allergic disease by age 4, OR(adj) 0.76 (95% CI 0.61-0.94) and sensitization, OR(adj) 0.76 (0.58-1.0). The reduced risk appeared most pronounced for multiple disease, OR(adj) 0.56 (0.35-0.89). IgE-sensitization to fish was only present among 18 of the 2614 children.
Conclusion: Regular fish consumption before age 1 appears to be associated with a reduced risk of allergic disease and sensitization to food and inhalant allergens during the first 4 years of life.