The rise in non-communicable diseases, such as allergies, in westernized countries links to changes in lifestyle and diet.

N-3 long chain polyunsaturated fatty acids (LCPUFA) present in marine oils facilitate a favorable milieu for immune maturation and may contribute to allergy prevention. N-3 LCPUFA can suppress innate and adaptive immune activation and induce epigenetic changes.

Murine studies convincingly show protective effects of fish oil, a source of n-3 LCPUFA, in food allergy and asthma models. Observational studies in human indicate that high dietary intake of n-3 LCPUFA and low intake of n-6 PUFA may protect against the development of allergic disease early in life. High n-6 PUFA intake is also associated with an increased asthma risk while n-3 LCPUFA may be protective and reduce symptoms. The quality of the marine oil used has impact on efficacy of allergy prevention and several observations link in particular n-3 LCPUFA DHA to allergy suppression.

Randomized controlled trials indicate that optimal timing, duration and dosage of n-3 LC-PUFA is required to exert an allergy protective effect. Supplementation during early pregnancy and lactation has shown promising results regarding allergy prevention. However these findings should be confirmed in a larger cohort. Although clinical trials in asthma patients reveal no consistent clinical benefits of n-3 LCPUFA supplementation on lung function, it can suppress airway inflammation.

Future food-pharma approaches may reveal whether adjunct therapy with dietary n-3 LCPUFA can improve allergy prevention or immunotherapy via support of allergen specific oral tolerance induction or contribute to the efficacy of drug therapy for asthma patients.