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Blood fatty acid composition in relation to allergy in children aged 2–9 years: results from the European IDEFICS study

Journal article
Authors Andrea Mikkelsen
Claudio Galli
Gabriele Eiben
Wolfgang Ahrens
Lucia Iacoviello
Denis Molnar
Valeria Pala
Patrizia Rise
Gerardo Rodriguez
Patrizia Russo
Michael Tornaritis
Tomas Veidebaum
Krishna Vyncke
Maike Wolters
Kirsten Mehlig
Published in European Journal of Clinical Nutrition
Volume 71
Pages 39-44
ISSN 0954-3007
Publication year 2017
Published at Institute of Medicine, School of Public Health and Community Medicine
Institute of Medicine, Department of Public Health and Community Medicine, Public Health Epidemiology Unit
Pages 39-44
Language en
Keywords allergy, polyunsaturated fatty acids, observational studies, children
Subject categories Other Medical Sciences


Background/objectives: Blood polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA) are involved in allergy development, but the etiological role of n-6 and n-3 PUFA is still controversial. A European multicenter study of children (IDEFICS) provided the opportunity to explore the cross-sectional association between fatty acids (FA) and allergy. Subjects/methods: Blood FA levels were measured in 2600 children aged 2–9 years and were recorded as the percentage of weight of all FA detected. Logistic regression of allergy status on FA components was adjusted for age, sex, country, body mass index, family history of allergic disease, breast-feeding, and number of siblings. The results were given as odds ratios (OR) for current vs no allergy ever and an increase in FA by 1 s.d. Results: Overall, higher proportions of n-6 PUFA were associated with higher odds of allergy (OR=1.21 (1.05, 1.40)). Monounsaturated FA (MUFA) were associated with reduced risk for allergy (OR=0.75 (0.65, 0.87)), whereas saturated FA did not differ by allergy status. The strongest associations were observed in children <4 years old, with ORs of allergy given as 1.62 (1.15, 2.29) for n-3 PUFA and 0.63 (0.42, 0.95) for MUFA. With regard to individual FA, these associations were independently observed for docosapentaenoic acid (22:5 n-3) and oleic acid (18:1 n-9). Conclusions: Both PUFA subtypes were positively associated with allergy in an age-dependent manner, whereas MUFA was associated with less allergy. The observation of high proportions of n-3 PUFA in allergic children younger than 4 years might help to understand the nature of early onset of atopic disease.

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