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Allergy. 2001 Jul;56(7):633-8.

Polyunsaturated fatty acids in maternal diet, breast milk, and serum lipid fatty acids of infants in relation to atopy.

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Departments of Biochemistry and Food Chemistry, and Pediatrics, University of Turku, Turku, Finland.



The increased consumption of n-6 polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA) has been shown to coincide with the increased prevalence of atopic diseases. We aimed to investigate whether maternal diet and atopic status influence the PUFA composition of breast milk and the serum lipid fatty acids of infants.


Maternal diet was assessed by a food questionnaire. The PUFA composition of breast milk obtained at 3 months from 20 allergic and 20 healthy mothers and of their infants' (10 atopic and 10 nonatopic/group of mothers) serum lipids was analyzed.


Although no differences in maternal PUFA intake were observed, the breast milk of allergic mothers contained less gamma-linolenic acid (18:3 n-6) than that of healthy mothers. Similarly, atopic infants had less gamma-linolenic acid in phospholipids than healthy infants, although n-6 PUFA were elevated in other serum lipid fractions in atopic infants. The serum lipid fatty acids in atopic infants did not correlate with those in maternal breast milk.


Our results suggest that dietary n-6 PUFA are not as readily transferred into breast milk or incorporated into serum phospholipids, but may be utilized for other purposes, such as eicosanoid precursors, in allergic/atopic individuals. Subsequently, high dietary proportions of n-6 PUFA, or reduced proportions of regulatory PUFA, such as gamma-linolenic acid and n-3 PUFA, may be a risk factor for the development of atopic disease.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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