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

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. www.anzctr.org.au Registration: ACTRN12605000042640 , Date: 26th July 2005. Retrospectively registered, trial commenced prior to registry availability.