Increased intake of oily fish in pregnancy: effects on neonatal immune responses and on clinical outcomes in infants at 6 mo

Am J Clin Nutr. 2012 Feb;95(2):395-404. doi: 10.3945/ajcn.111.022954. Epub 2012 Jan 4.


Background: Long-chain n-3 PUFAs found in oily fish may have a role in lowering the risk of allergic disease.

Objective: The objective was to assess whether an increased intake of oily fish in pregnancy modifies neonatal immune responses and early markers of atopy.

Design: Women (n = 123) were randomly assigned to continue their habitual diet, which was low in oily fish, or to consume 2 portions of salmon per week (providing 3.45 g EPA plus DHA) from 20 wk gestation until delivery. In umbilical cord blood samples (n = 101), we measured n-3 fatty acids, IgE concentrations, and immunologic responses. Infants were clinically evaluated at age 6 mo (n = 86).

Results: Cord blood mononuclear cell (CBMC) production of interleukin (IL)-2, IL-4, IL-5, IL-10, and tumor necrosis factor-α in response to phytohemagglutinin (PHA) and of IL-2 in response to Dermatophagoides pteronyssinus allergen 1 (Derp1) was lower in the salmon group (all P ≤ 0.03). In the subgroup of CBMCs in which an allergic phenotype was confirmed in the mother or father, IL-10 production in response to Toll-like receptor 2, 3, and 4 agonists, ovalbumin, salmon parvalbumin, or Derp1 and prostaglandin E(2) production in response to lipopolysaccharide or PHA was lower in the salmon group (all P ≤ 0.045). Total IgE at birth and total IgE, incidence and severity of atopic dermatitis, and skin-prick-test positivity at 6 mo of age were not different between the 2 groups.

Conclusion: Oily fish intervention in pregnancy modifies neonatal immune responses but may not affect markers of infant atopy assessed at 6 mo of age. This trial is registered at as NCT00801502.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Allergens / pharmacology*
  • Animals
  • Causality
  • Dermatitis, Atopic / epidemiology
  • Diet*
  • Dietary Fats / administration & dosage*
  • Dinoprostone / biosynthesis
  • Fatty Acids, Omega-3 / pharmacology*
  • Female
  • Fetal Blood / metabolism
  • Fish Oils / pharmacology*
  • Humans
  • Hypersensitivity / blood*
  • Immunoglobulin E / blood
  • Incidence
  • Infant
  • Interleukins / blood
  • Leukocytes, Mononuclear / drug effects*
  • Leukocytes, Mononuclear / immunology
  • Leukocytes, Mononuclear / metabolism
  • Male
  • Phenotype
  • Pregnancy
  • Salmon
  • Seafood
  • Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha / blood


  • Allergens
  • Dietary Fats
  • Fatty Acids, Omega-3
  • Fish Oils
  • Interleukins
  • Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha
  • Immunoglobulin E
  • Dinoprostone

Associated data