Dietary Linoleic Acid, Immune Inhibition and Disease

Postgrad Med J. 1999 Mar;75(881):129-32. doi: 10.1136/pgmj.75.881.129.


Review of the evidence available in published literature supports a radical change in viewpoint with respect to disease in countries where maize is the predominant dietary component. In these countries, the pattern of disease is largely determined by a change in immune profile caused by metabolites of dietary linoleic acid. High intake of linoleic acid in a diet deficient in other polyunsaturated fatty acids and in riboflavin results in high tissue production of prostaglandin E2, which in turn causes inhibition of the proliferation and cytokine production of Th1 cells, mediators of cellular immunity. Tuberculosis, measles, hepatoma, secondary infection in HIV and kwashiorkor are all favoured by this reduction in cellular immunity. Diet-associated inhibition of the Th1 subset is a major contributor to the high prevalence of these diseases found in areas of sub-Saharan Africa where maize is the staple.

MeSH terms

  • Africa
  • Dinoprostone / metabolism*
  • HIV Infections / immunology
  • Humans
  • Immunity, Cellular / physiology
  • Kwashiorkor / immunology
  • Linoleic Acid / administration & dosage
  • Linoleic Acid / adverse effects
  • Linoleic Acid / immunology*
  • Liver Neoplasms / immunology
  • Measles / immunology
  • Th1 Cells / immunology*
  • Th1 Cells / metabolism
  • Tuberculosis / immunology
  • Zea mays


  • Linoleic Acid
  • Dinoprostone