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Can maternal lipid profile predict the risk of food allergy in offspring?

Published online: April 17, 2019

The rising prevalence of food allergies (FAs) in the past decades is in parallel with growing obesity and diabetes epidemics, first in developed countries and now across the world. This raises the question of whether these conditions are etiologically related. Previous studies lend support that maternal metabolic disorders may be risk factors of childhood FAs and may occur as early as in utero. This temporal relation is important given that most FAs arise in the first few years of life. However, the molecular mechanisms underlying early-life adverse metabolic disorders and child FA risk have not been well studied.

In an original article published in The Journal of Allergy & Clinical Immunology (JACI), Hong and colleagues investigated whether maternal lipidomic profiles were associated with offspring risk of FA in 1,068 mother-child dyads from the Boston Birth Cohort (BBC), a U.S. predominantly urban, low-income, minority population. Using liquid chromatography tandem mass spectrometry, maternal lipid metabolites were quantified in maternal plasma collected 1-3 days after delivery.  Food sensitization in the children was defined as specific IgE ≥ 0.35 kU/L to any of the 8 common food allergens using ImmunoCAP, and FA was defined based on food sensitization, history of typical clinical symptoms upon ingestion of a specific food, and food avoidance. Logistic regression was applied to analyze the associations between maternal lipid metabolites and risk of FA in offspring. The potential effect modification by timing of first solid food introduction was also examined.

Among the 209 lipid metabolites from different lipid classes, maternal triacylglycerols (TAGs) of shorter carbon chains and fewer double bonds were associated with higher risk of FA, whereas TAGs of longer carbon chains and more double bonds were significantly associated with lower risk of FA in offspring, which were independent of other maternal metabolic factors. Furthermore, the association of the maternal TAG score with risk of FA in offspring was stronger in children with delayed solid food introduction (≥7 months of age) than in those with earlier solid food introduction.

This is the first study to demonstrate a link between maternal TAGs and offspring risk of FA and effect modification by the timing of solid food introduction.  Overall, this study provides novel evidence revealing the role of maternal TAGs  in FA development. More studies are warranted to replicate the study findings and to better understand the mechanisms.

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.

Graphical Abstract