OBJECTIVE: Breast milk fatty acids may have immunomodulatory properties related to the development of atopic disease. The aim of this study was to assess the impact of the breast milk fatty acid composition on the development of atopic dermatitis (AD) in high-risk infants.

METHODS: Mothers with atopic disease were recruited at the end of gestation. Maternal food records and breast milk samples were collected at the infants' age of one month. Infants were clinically examined and AD diagnosed at one, three, six, and 12 months.

RESULTS: Altogether 13 of 34 (38%) infants were diagnosed with AD during the first year of life. Infants developing AD had consumed breast milk with a higher ratio of saturated to polyunsaturated fatty acids and less n-3 fatty acids compared to infants not developing AD. Specifically, breast milk consumed by infants with AD contained more stearic acid, 8.9% of total fatty acids (95% confidence interval 7.9-10.0) in comparison to those without AD, 7.1% (95% CI 6.6-7.7).

CONCLUSION: Breast milk rich in saturated and low in n-3 fatty acids may be a risk factor for atopic dermatitis in the infant.