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Prenatal polyunsaturated fatty acids and risk of asthma in childhood

Published online: December 3, 2019

Changes in diet, including lower consumption n-3 (omega-3) long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs), typically abundant in oily fish, and higher consumption of mostly plant based n-6 (omega-6) PUFAs have been an area of research interest in the study of the development and exacerbation of allergy and asthma in childhood. Research has linked maternal intake of PUFAs during pregnancy and the development of asthma and allergy in childhood. However, results have been inconsistent, and few investigations have assessed how factors like maternal history of asthma, and child sex may influence these associations.

In an article recently published in The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology (JACI), Rosa and colleagues examined the association of maternal n-3 and n-6 PUFA status and the ratio of the two, determined using 2nd trimester plasma specimens, in relation to the risk of asthma in children at ages 4-6 years. The authors used data from over 1000 mother-child dyads, enrolled 2006-2011, participating in the Conditions Affecting Neurocognitive Development and Learning in Early Childhood (CANDLE) birth cohort study based in Shelby County, Tennessee. The authors also examined how maternal asthma and child sex modified associations of interest.

The authors found that higher prenatal levels of the pro-inflammatory n-6 PUFAs were associated with higher risk of ever and current doctor diagnosed asthma in children at age 4-6 years. The authors also found that these associations were stronger for children whose mothers reported asthma at enrollment. Furthermore, in exploratory analyses the authors reported that those at highest risk were male children born to mothers with asthma. Findings suggest that male children born to women with asthma may be particularly susceptible to the pro-inflammatory effects of n-6 PUFA intake, although findings warrant replication and examination in other populations to further explore these complex relationships.
 
The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology (JACI) is an official scientific journal of the AAAAI, and is the most-cited journal in the field of allergy and clinical immunology.

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