• allergy;
  • atopic eczema;
  • delayed-type hypersensitivity;
  • fish oil;
  • n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids


Studies have shown that atopic individuals have decreased serum levels of n-3 fatty acids. Indicating these compounds may have a protective effect against allergic reaction and/or are consumed during inflammation. This study investigated whether fish (n-3) or sunflower (n-6) oil supplementation affected T helper type 1 (Th1)- and Th2-mediated hypersensitivity in the skin and airways, respectively, and whether the fatty acid serum profile changed during the inflammatory response. Mice were fed regular chow, chow + 10% fish oil or chow + 10% sunflower oil. Mice were immunized with ovalbumin (OVA) resolved in Th1 or Th2 adjuvant. For Th1 hypersensitivity, mice were challenged with OVA in the footpad. Footpad swelling, OVA-induced lymphocyte proliferation and cytokine production in the draining lymph node were evaluated. In the airway hypersensitivity model (Th2), mice were challenged intranasally with OVA and the resulting serum immunoglobulin (Ig)E and eosinophilic lung infiltration were measured. In the Th1 model, OVA-specific T cells proliferated less and produced less interferon (IFN)-γ, tumour necrosis factor (TNF) and interleukin (IL)-6 in fish oil-fed mice versus controls. Footpad swelling was reduced marginally. In contrast, mice fed fish oil in the Th2 model produced more OVA-specific IgE and had slightly higher proportions of eosinophils in lung infiltrate. A significant fall in serum levels of long-chain n-3 fatty acids accompanied challenge and Th2-mediated inflammation in Th2 model. Fish oil supplementation affects Th1 and Th2 immune responses conversely; significant consumption of n-3 fatty acids occurs during Th2-driven inflammation. The latter observation may explain the association between Th2-mediated inflammation and low serum levels of n-3 fatty acids.