Postnatal fish oil supplementation in high-risk infants to prevent allergy: randomized controlled trial

N D'Vaz, S J Meldrum, J A Dunstan, D Martino, S McCarthy, J Metcalfe, M K Tulic, T A Mori, S L Prescott
Pediatrics 2012, 130 (4): 674-82

BACKGROUND AND OBJECTIVE: Relative deficiency of dietary omega 3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (n-3 PUFA) has been implicated in the rising allergy prevalence in Westernized countries. Fish oil supplementation may provide an intervention strategy for primary allergy prevention. The objective of this study was to assess the effect of fish oil n-3 PUFA supplementation from birth to 6 months of age on infant allergic disease.

METHODS: In a double-blind randomized controlled trial, 420 infants at high atopic risk received a daily supplement of fish oil containing 280 mg docosahexaenoic acid and 110 mg eicosapentaenoic acid or a control (olive oil), from birth to age 6 months. PUFA levels were measured in 6-month-old infants' erythrocytes and plasma and their mothers' breast milk. Eczema, food allergy, asthma and sensitization were assessed in 323 infants for whom clinical follow-up was completed at 12 months of age.

RESULTS: At 6 months of age, infant docosahexaenoic acid and eicosapentaenoic acid levels were significantly higher (both P < .05) and erythrocyte arachidonic acid levels were lower (P = .003) in the fish oil group. Although n-3 PUFA levels at 6 months were associated with lower risk of eczema (P = .033) and recurrent wheeze (P = .027), the association with eczema was not significant after multiple comparisons and there was no effect of the intervention per se on the primary study outcomes. Specifically, between-group comparisons revealed no differences in the occurrence of allergic outcomes including sensitization, eczema, asthma, or food allergy.

CONCLUSIONS: Postnatal fish oil supplementation improved infant n-3 status but did not prevent childhood allergic disease.

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