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Keywords:

  • allergy;
  • cytokines;
  • fish oil supplementation;
  • infants;
  • omega 3 Polyunsaturated fatty acids.

Abstract

Background

Maternal fish oil supplementation during pregnancy has been associated with altered infant immune responses and a reduced risk of infant sensitization and eczema.

Objective

To examine the effect of early postnatal fish oil supplementation on infant cellular immune function at 6 months of age in the context of allergic disease.

Methods

In a double-blind randomized controlled trial (ACTRN12606000281594), 420 infants of high atopic risk received fish oil [containing 280 mg docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and 110 mg eicosapentanoic acid (EPA)] or control oil daily from birth to 6 months. One hundred and twenty infants had blood collected at 6 months of age. Fatty acid levels, induced cytokine responses, T cell subsets and monocyte HLA-DR expression were assessed at 6 months of age. Infant allergies were assessed at 6 and 12 months of age.

Results

DHA and EPA levels were significantly higher in the fish oil group and erythrocyte arachidonic acid (AA) levels were lower (all P < 0.05). Infants in the fish oil group had significantly lower IL-13 responses (= 0.036) to house dust mite (HDM) and higher IFNγ (P = 0.035) and TNF (P = 0.017) responses to phytohaemaglutinin (PHA). Infants with relatively high DHA levels had lower Th2 responses to allergens including lower IL-13 to β-lactoglobulin (BLG) (P = 0.020), and lower IL-5 to BLG (P = 0.045).

Conclusions and clinical relevance

Postnatal fish oil supplementation increased infant n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acid (PUFA) levels and associated with lowered allergen-specific Th2 responses and elevated polyclonal Th1 responses. Our results add to existing evidence of n-3 PUFA having immunomodulatory properties that are potentially allergy-protective.