Can polyunsaturated fatty acids influence the risk of allergic disease?

Published online: December 5, 2017

Allergic disease, including asthma and rhinitis, are among the most common non-communicable diseases in childhood and adolescence. Polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs), have been hypothesized to influence the inflammatory response and could thereby modulate the risk of allergic disease. PUFAs are found in for example nuts, oily fish and vegetable oils, but are also produced in the human body. Blood composition of PUFA reflects both production and dietary intake and may therefore provide a more accurate assessment of PUFA levels, compared to dietary information.

In this article recently published in the Journal of Allergy & Clinical Immunology (JACI), Magnusson and colleagues investigated whether n-3 and n-6 PUFA levels in blood plasma in childhood influence the risk of asthma, rhinitis and aeroallergen sensitization up to adolescence. The study is based on a sample of 940 children from the Swedish population-based study, the Children, Allergy, Milieu, Stockholm, Epidemiological (BAMSE) study. Blood samples were drawn at 8 years and were analyzed for the n-3 fatty acids α-linolenic acid (ALA), eicosapentaeonic acid (EPA), docosapentaeonic acid (DPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), and the major n-6 fatty acids linoleic acid (LA) and arachidonic acid (AA). Information on allergic disease was obtained by questionnaires and allergic sensitization was defined based on measured allergic antibodies in blood at 8 and 16 years. PUFA levels were analyzed in relation to new onset and current asthma, rhinitis and allergic sensitization at 16 years.

The authors found that higher proportion of total very long-chain n-3 PUFA levels in plasma at age 8 years was associated with a reduced risk of having asthma, rhinitis and aeroallergen sensitization at age 16 years. High PUFA was further associated with reduced risk of new-onset asthma between 8 and 16 years. The specific fatty acid AA was associated with a reduced risk of asthma, aeroallergen sensitization and allergic rhinitis at 16 years and an increased probability of remission of asthma and rhinitis between 8 and 16 years. The results add to the evidence that PUFA can influence subsequent allergic disease in childhood and may be used for prevention of allergic disease.

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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