The Impact of Dietary Long-Chain Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids on Respiratory Illness in Infants and Children

J.H.J. Hageman, P. Hooyenga, D.A. Diersen-Schade, D.M.F. Scalabrin, H.J. Wichers, E.E. Birch

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

23 Citations (Scopus)


Increasing evidence suggests that intake of long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids (LCPUFA), especially omega-3 LCPUFA, improves respiratory health early in life. This review summarizes publications from 2009 through July 2012 that evaluated effects of fish, fish oil or LCPUFA intake during pregnancy, lactation, and early postnatal years on allergic and infectious respiratory illnesses. Studies during pregnancy found inconsistent effects in offspring: two showed no effects and three showed protective effects of omega-3 LCPUFA on respiratory illnesses or atopic dermatitis. Two studies found that infants fed breast milk with higher omega-3 LCPUFA had reduced allergic manifestations. Earlier introduction of fish improved respiratory health or reduced allergy in four studies. Three randomized controlled trials showed that providing LCPUFA during infancy or childhood reduced allergy and/or respiratory illness while one found no effect. Potential explanations for the variability among studies and possible mechanisms of action for LCPUFA in allergy and respiratory disease are discussed.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)564-573
JournalCurrent Allergy and Asthma Reports
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 2012


  • Allergic rhinitis
  • Allergy
  • ARA
  • Arachidonic acid
  • Asthma
  • Atopic dermatitis
  • Atopy
  • Children
  • DHA
  • Docosahexaenoic acid
  • Eczema
  • Eicosapentaenoic acid
  • EPA
  • Fish
  • Fish oil
  • Immune system
  • Infants
  • Maternal supplementation
  • Nutrition
  • Omega-3 fatty acids
  • Omega-6 fatty acids
  • Polyunsaturated fatty acids
  • Postnatal supplementation
  • Respiratory disease
  • Respiratory illness


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