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Lipids and cardiovascular/metabolic health

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



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.


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.


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).


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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The support provided by school boards, headmasters and communities is gratefully acknowledged. We also thank the IDEFICS children and their parents for participating in the extensive examinations. We are grateful to A Wold (University of Gothenburg) for her comments on an earlier version of the manuscript. This study was conducted as part of the IDEFICS study ( We gratefully acknowledge the financial support of the European Community within the Sixth RTD Framework Programme Contract no. 016181 (FOOD) and the grant support from EU for the IDEFICS study. We also thank the Swedish Research Councils FORTE, FORMAS and VR for supplementary financial support.

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Correspondence to K Mehlig.

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Mikkelsen, A., Galli, C., Eiben, G. et al. Blood fatty acid composition in relation to allergy in children aged 2–9 years: results from the European IDEFICS study. Eur J Clin Nutr 71, 39–44 (2017).

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