PUFA status at birth and allergy-related phenotypes in childhood: a pooled analysis of the Maastricht Essential Fatty Acid Birth (MEFAB) and RHEA birth cohorts

Nikos Stratakis*, Marij Gielen, Katerina Margetaki, Renate H. M. de Groot, Maria Apostolaki, Georgia Chalkiadaki, Marina Vafeiadi, Vasiliki Leventakou, Roger W. Godschalk, Manolis Kogevinas, Euripides G. Stephanou, Maurice P. Zeegers, Leda Chatzi

*Corresponding author for this work

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Lower prenatal exposure to n-3 PUFA relative to n-6 PUFA has been hypothesised to influence allergy development, but evidence remains largely inconsistent. In the Dutch Maastricht Essential Fatty Acid Birth (MEFAB) (n 293) and Greek RHEA Mother-Child (n 213) cohorts, we investigated whether cord blood phospholipid PUFA concentrations are associated with symptoms of wheeze, asthma, rhinitis and eczema at the age of 6-7 years. Information on allergy-related phenotypes was collected using validated questionnaires. We estimated relative risks (RR) and 95 % CI for associations of PUFA with child outcomes using multivariable generalised linear regression models. In pooled analyses, higher concentration of the n-3 long-chain EPA and DHA and a higher total n-3:n-6 PUFA ratio were associated with lower risk of current wheeze (RR 0.61; 95 % CI 0.45, 0.82 per sd increase in EPA+DHA and 0.54; 95 % CI 0.39, 0.75 per unit increase in the n-3:n-6 ratio) and reduced asthma risk (RR 0.50; 95 % CI 0.31, 0.79 for EPA+DHA and 0.43; 95 % CI 0.26, 0.70 for the n-3:n-6 ratio). No associations were observed for other allergy-related phenotypes. The results were similar across cohorts. In conclusion, higher EPA and DHA concentrations and a higher n-3:n-6 fatty acid ratio at birth were associated with lower risk of child wheeze and asthma. Our findings suggest that dietary interventions resulting in a marked increase in the n-3:n-6 PUFA ratio, and mainly in n-3 long-chain PUFA intake in late gestation, may reduce the risk of asthma symptoms in mid-childhood.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)202-210
Number of pages9
JournalBritish Journal of Nutrition
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 28 Jan 2018


  • PUFA
  • Cord blood
  • Asthma
  • Eczema
  • Rhinitis
  • Childhood
  • N-3

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