Immunomodulatory effects of omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids : role in allergy prevention in infancy [ 2005 - 2007 ]

Also known as: The use of omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids in early life to prevent allergic disease

Research Grant

[Cite as]

Researchers: Prof Susan Prescott (Principal investigator) ,  A/Pr Charles Hii Dr Janet Dunstan Prof Antonio Ferrante

Brief description The dramatic increase in asthma and allergic disease over the last 20-30 years has highlighted the urgent need to identify associated environmental changes that may also be logical targets for disease prevention. Although this is likely to be multifactorial, one significant change during this period has been a progressive decline in the intake of dietary anti-inflammatory n-3 polyunsaturated fats (PUFA) in Western diets, with a corresponding increase in n-6 PUFA fatty acids. We recently showed for the first time that n-3 PUFA may have more significant effects in very early life before immune responses are fully established. We confirmed that maternal fish oil supplementation (n-40) resulted in significantly higher n-3 PUFA levels in newborns (compared to those with no supplements, n-43), and this was related to reduced immune responses to allergens (such as house dust mite, cat and egg). These observations suggest that n-3 PUFA can modify early immune development. Although this previous study was designed to assess immune outcomes (rather than clinical outcomes) we collected preliminary clinical data for the purposes of this application. We observed a consistent trend for less allergic symptoms and sensitisation in the supplementation group. These observations clearly warrant this proposed study to confirm these clinical effects, and to assess the mechanisms of action in considerably more detail. In this proposed study we will compare the effects of fish oil (n-165) or placebo (n-165) in early infancy (from 0-6 months of age). This much larger population will allow us to determine if increasing dietary n-3 PUFA is a way of reducing the chance of allergy in families where there is a high genetic risk. Approximately 40% of infants in Australia will go on to develop asthma or allergies. Strategies such as this that reduce the risk (even slightly) or the severity of disease expression could have enormous impact in this global context at relatively little cost.

Funding Amount $AUD 537,600.00

Funding Scheme NHMRC Project Grants

Notes Standard Project Grant

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