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Keywords:

  • allergic rhinitis;
  • asthma;
  • eczema;
  • food allergy;
  • meta-analysis;
  • omega oils;
  • systematic review

Background:  There is conflicting evidence on the use of omega 3 and omega 6 supplementation for the prevention of allergic diseases. We conducted a systematic review evaluating the effectiveness of omega 3 and 6 oils for the primary prevention of sensitization and development of allergic disorders.

Methods:  We searched The Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials, MEDLINE, EMBASE, LILACS, PsycInfo, AMED, ISI Web of Science and Google Scholar for double-blind randomized controlled trials. Two authors independently assessed articles for inclusion. Meta-analyses were undertaken using fixed effects modelling, or random effects modelling in the event of detecting significant heterogeneity.

Results:  Of the 3129 articles identified, 10 reports (representing six unique studies) satisfied the inclusion criteria. Four studies compared omega 3 supplements with placebo and two studies compared omega 6 supplements with placebo. There was no clear evidence of benefit in relation to reduced risk of allergic sensitization or a favourable immunological profile. Meta-analyses failed to identify any consistent or clear benefits associated with use of omega 3 [atopic eczema: RR = 1.10 (95% CI 0.78–1.54); asthma: RR = 0.81 (95% CI 0.53–1.25); allergic rhinitis: RR = 0.80 (95% CI 0.34–1.89) or food allergy RR = 0.51 (95% CI 0.10–2.55)] or omega 6 oils [atopic eczema: RR = 0.80 (95% CI 0.56–1.16)] for the prevention of clinical disease.

Conclusions:  Contrary to the evidence from basic science and epidemiological studies, our systematic review and meta-analysis suggests that supplementation with omega 3 and omega 6 oils is probably unlikely to play an important role as a strategy for the primary prevention of sensitization or allergic disease.