Childhood fish oil supplementation modifies associations between traffic related air pollution and allergic sensitisation

Anna L. Hansell*, Ioannis Bakolis, Christine T. Cowie, Elena G. Belousova, Kitty Ng, Christina Weber-Chrysochoou, Warwick J. Britton, Stephen R. Leeder, Euan R. Tovey, Karen L. Webb, Brett G. Toelle, Guy B. Marks

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)


Background: Studies of potential adverse effects of traffic related air pollution (TRAP) on allergic disease have had mixed findings. Nutritional studies to examine whether fish oil supplementation may protect against development of allergic disease through their anti-inflammatory actions have also had mixed findings. Extremely few studies to date have considered whether air pollution and dietary factors such as fish oil intake may interact, which was the rationale for this study. Methods: We conducted a secondary analysis of the Childhood Asthma Prevention Study (CAPS) birth cohort, where children were randomised to fish oil supplementation or placebo from early life to age 5 years. We examined interactions between supplementation and TRAP (using weighted road density at place of residence as our measure of traffic related air pollution exposure) with allergic disease and lung function outcomes at age 5 and 8 years. Results: Outcome information was available on approximately 400 children (~ 70% of the original birth cohort). Statistically significant interactions between fish oil supplementation and TRAP were seen for house dust mite (HDM), inhalant and all-allergen skin prick tests (SPTs) and for HDM-specific interleukin-5 response at age 5. Adjusting for relevant confounders, relative risks (RRs) for positive HDM SPT were RR 1.74 (95% CI 1.22-2.48) per 100 m local road or 33.3 m of motorway within 50 m of the home for those randomised to the control group and 1.03 (0.76-1.41) for those randomised to receive the fish oil supplement. The risk differential was highest in an analysis restricted to those who did not change address between ages 5 and 8 years. In this sub-group, supplementation also protected against the effect of traffic exposure on pre-bronchodilator FEV1/FVC ratio. Conclusions: Results suggest that fish oil supplementation may protect against pro-allergic sensitisation effects of TRAP exposure. Strengths of this analysis are that supplementation was randomised and independent of TRAP exposure, however, findings need to be confirmed in a larger experimental study with the interaction investigated as a primary hypothesis, potentially also exploring epigenetic mechanisms. More generally, studies of adverse health effects of air pollution may benefit from considering potential effect modification by diet and other factors. Trial registration: Australia New Zealand Clinical Trial Registry. Registration: ACTRN12605000042640, Date: 26th July 2005. Retrospectively registered, trial commenced prior to registry availability.

Original languageEnglish
Article number27
JournalEnvironmental Health: A Global Access Science Source
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 27 Mar 2018
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was supported by the National Health and Medical Research Council of Australia, Cooperative Research Centre for Asthma, New South Wales Department of Health, Children’s Hospital Westmead, University of Sydney, Faculty of Medicine, University of Sydney, Faculty of Medicine, Strategic Research Grant 2008. Contributions of goods and services were made by Allergopharma Joachim Ganzer KG Germany, John Sands Australia, Hasbro, Toll refrigerated, AstraZeneca Australia, and Nu-Mega Ingredients Pty Ltd. Goods were provided at reduced cost by Auspharm, Allersearch and Goodman Fielder Foods. AH was funded by Wellcome Trust grant number 075833 and a University of Sydney International Visiting Research Fellowship. The work of the UK Small Area Health Statistics Unit is funded by Public Health England as part of the MRC-PHE Centre for Environment and Health, funded also by the UK Medical Research Council (Medical Research Council-Public Health England Centre for Environment and Health Grant number: MR/L01341X/1). The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript. Ioannis Bakolis is supported by the NIHR Biomedical Research Centre at South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust and by the NIHR Collaboration for Leadership in Applied Health Research and Care South London at King’s College Hospital NHS Foundation Trust.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2018 The Author(s).


  • Air pollution
  • Allergic sensitisation
  • Birth cohort
  • Children
  • Fish oil
  • Lung function
  • PUFAs


Dive into the research topics of 'Childhood fish oil supplementation modifies associations between traffic related air pollution and allergic sensitisation'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this