Serum, cheek cell and breast milk fatty acid compositions in infants with atopic and non-atopic eczema


Kirsi Laitinen, University of Turku, Itäinen Pitkäkatu 4A, 5th floor, 20520 Turku, Finland.


Background The major theory implicating diet with allergic diseases is associated with altered food consumption and subsequent changes in fatty acid composition.

Objective To investigate fatty acid compositions among infants with atopic and non-atopic eczema and healthy infants and to evaluate the expediency of non-invasive cheek cell phospholipid fatty acid composition as a marker in patients with eczema.

Methods Diagnosis of eczema in infants was confirmed clinically and by positive (atopic eczema, n=6) or negative (non-atopic eczema, n=6) skin prick testing in comparison with controls (n=19). The fatty acid compositions of infant cheek cell and serum phospholipids and breast milk total lipids were analysed by gas chromatography.

Results The distinction between atopic and non-atopic eczema was manifested in cheek cell phospholipids as linoleic acid (14.69 (13.67–15.53)% of total fatty acids; the median (interquartile range)), the sum of n-6 fatty acids (19.94 (19.06–20.53)%) and the sum of polyunsaturated fatty acids (22.70 (21.31–23.28)%) were higher in infants with atopic eczema compared with non-atopic eczema (12.69 (10.87–13.93); 17.72 (15.63–18.91) and 19.90 (17.64–21.06), respectively; P<0.05) and controls (12.50 (12.16–13.42); 18.19 (17.43–18.70) and 20.32 (19.32–21.03), respectively; P<0.05). Serum phospholipid γ-linolenic acid was lower in both atopic and non-atopic eczema compared with controls (P<0.05) and additionally eicosapentaenoic acid was higher in atopic eczema compared with controls (P<0.05).

Conclusion These preliminary results suggest differences in fatty acid compositions between the two types of eczema, calling for further evaluation in a larger setting. The two types of eczema may be regulated by different immunological processes, and fatty acids may have a more profound role in the atopic type.