Fatty acids (FA) are known to have a number of immunological effects and, accordingly, may play a role in the development of allergic diseases. We investigated the effect of maternal intake of FA during pregnancy on the risk of allergic rhinitis, wheeze and atopic eczema in children aged 5 years.

The present study analysed data from the Finnish Type 1 Diabetes Prediction and Prevention Nutrition Study, a population-based birth cohort study with a 5-year follow-up. Complete information on maternal diet (assessed by a validated FFQ) and International Study of Asthma and Allergies in Childhood-based allergic outcomes was available for 2441 children. Cox proportional regression and logistic regression were used for the analyses.

After adjusting for potential confounding variables, high maternal consumption of butter and butter spreads (hazard ratio (HR) 1.33; 95 % CI 1.03, 1.71) and higher ratio of n-6:n-3 FA (HR 1.37; 95 % CI 1.07, 1.77) during pregnancy were associated with an increased risk of allergic rhinitis in the offspring by 5 years of age. High maternal intakes of total PUFA (HR 0.71; 95 % CI 0.52, 0.96) and α-linolenic FA (HR 0.73; 95 % CI 0.54, 0.98) were associated with a decreased risk of allergic rhinitis. However, these results lost their significance after adjustment for multiple comparisons.

Overall, our data suggest that maternal consumption of butter, the ratio of n-6:n-3 FA and intake of PUFA and α-linolenic FA during pregnancy may be potential determinants of allergic rhinitis in the offspring.