Increased vitamin C intakes during pregnancy may reduce infants’ allergy risk

January 1, 2013

Maternal consumption of foods rich in antioxidants vitamin C and copper may reduce the risk of allergic events in infants predisposed to allergic disease, suggests a new Australian study.

In this observational study, intakes of antioxidant micronutrients, such as beta-carotene, vitamin C, vita-
min E
, copper and zinc, were assessed in 420 pregnant women by a food frequency questionnaire (1). Subsequently, any cases of allergic diseases among the women’s infants at one year of age were docu-mented. The study’s results showed that a higher maternal dietary intake of vitamin C was associated
with a reduced risk of all diagnosed infant allergic disease, including food allergies and wheeze. Specifi-
cally, a higher maternal dietary copper intake was associated with a reduced risk of wheeze and of the development of early allergic disease in infants who were at high risk due to family allergy history.

The researchers commented that the potential protective effects of vitamin C- and antioxidant-rich foods
on allergic disease have been noted in a number of previous studies, which included links between higher intakes of antioxidant-rich foods, better pulmonary function, and a reduced risk of wheeze (2). There are also some previous observations that support copper’s role in immunomodulation. Previous findings that insufficient maternal vitamin E intakes were associated with an increased risk of developing childhood wheeze (3) could not be confirmed. However, almost 50% of pregnant mothers did not meet the recom-mended dietary intake (RDI) for vitamin E when dietary intakes alone were taken into account. In a
national intake survey, 20% of the mothers did not meet the RDI when total vitamin E intakes (including supplements) were analyzed (4).


  1. West C. E. et al. Associations between maternal antioxidant intakes in pregnancy and infant allergic outcomes. Nutrients. 2012; 4:1747-1758.
  2. Allan K. et al. Antioxidants and allergic disease: A case of too little or too much? Clin. Exp. Allergy. 2010; 40:370–380.
  3. Miyake Y. et al. Consumption of vegetables, fruit, and antioxidants during pregnancy and wheeze and eczema in infants. Allergy. 2010; 65:758–765.
  4. Australian Government Department of Health and Ageing National Health and Medical Research Council. Nutrient Reference Values for Australia and New Zealand; Technical Report for National Health and Medical Research Council: Canberra, Australia, 2005.