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Clinical and Developmental Immunology
Volume 2012 (2012), Article ID 730568, 8 pages
Review Article

Role of Dietary Long-Chain Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids in Infant Allergies and Respiratory Diseases

1Department of Paediatrics, Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine, National University of Singapore, National University Health System, Tower Block, Level 12, 1E Kent Ridge Road, Singapore 119228
2Singapore Institute for Clinical Sciences, Agency for Science, Technology and Researsh (A*STAR), Brenner Centre for Molecular Medicine, Singapore 117609
3Saw Swee Hock School of Public Health, National University of Singapore, Singapore 117597
4Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine, National University of Singapore, National University Health System, Singapore 119228

Received 18 May 2012; Revised 21 August 2012; Accepted 23 August 2012

Academic Editor: Cándido Juárez-Rubio

Copyright © 2012 Lynette P. Shek et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


Maternal nutrition has critical effects on the developing structures and functions of the fetus. Malnutrition during pregnancy can result in low birth weight and small for gestational age babies, increase risk for infection, and impact the immune system. Long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) have been reported to have immunomodulatory effects. Decreased consumption of omega-6 PUFAs, in favor of more anti-inflammatory omega-3 PUFAs in modern diets, has demonstrated the potential protective role of omega-3 PUFAs in allergic and respiratory diseases. In this paper, we examine the role of PUFAs consumption during pregnancy and early childhood and its influence on allergy and respiratory diseases. PUFAs act via several mechanisms to modulate immune function. Omega-3 PUFAs may alter the T helper (Th) cell balance by inhibiting cytokine production which in turn inhibits immunoglobulin E synthesis and Th type 2 cell differentiation. PUFAs may further modify cellular membrane, induce eicosanoid metabolism, and alter gene expression. These studies indicate the benefits of omega-3 PUFAs supplementation. Nevertheless, further investigations are warranted to assess the long-term effects of omega-3 PUFAs in preventing other immune-mediated diseases, as well as its effects on the later immunodefense and health status during early growth and development.