Fish oil supplementation reduces maternal defensive inflammation and predicts a gut bacteriome with reduced immune priming capacity in infants

ISME J. 2020 Aug;14(8):2090-2104. doi: 10.1038/s41396-020-0672-9. Epub 2020 May 12.


Habitual supplementation of fish oil is thought to provide benefits to the developing infant; however, the effects on infant microbial establishment and immune development are unknown. A 6-month observational cohort study was conducted where 47 out of 91 women self-administered dietary fish oil during breastfeeding. Infant stool and mothers' breast milk were collected each month over 6 months. Gas chromatography was used to quantify breast milk fatty acids and high-throughput sequencing was used to assess the infant fecal microbiota. Immune markers and parent-reported questionnaires were used to assess infant immunity and health up to 2 years. Our results reveal that fish oil supplementation decreased secretory immunoglobulin A and increased IL-10 production in lactating women along with increased breast milk eicosapentaenoic acid, and this corresponded to increased abundances of fecal Bifidobacterium and Lactobacillus spp. in their infants. Docosahexaenoic acid levels in breast milk aligned with decreases in infant gut bacterial richness and the predicted bacterial phenotypes suggested that fish oil lowers commensal traits involved in pathogen colonization resistance. Despite this, there were no differences in sickness incidence in toddlers. This study revealed that fish oil associates with decreases in breast milk defensive inflammatory responses and corresponds with infant fecal microbiota with anti-inflammatory potential.

Publication types

  • Observational Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Child, Preschool
  • Dietary Supplements
  • Female
  • Fish Oils*
  • Gastrointestinal Microbiome*
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Inflammation
  • Lactation
  • Milk, Human


  • Fish Oils