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Effects of dietary lipids on immune function in a murine sensitisation model

  • Ruud Albers (a1), Marianne Bol (a2), Astrid Willems (a1), Cor Blonk (a1) and Raymond Pieters...


We have tested the effect of dietary fatty acids on aspects of innate and specific adaptive T helper (Th) 1- and Th2-driven immune responses in a murine sensitisation model using dinitrochlorobenzene as sensitiser. Six groups of fifteen BALB/c mice were fed diets containing 30 % fat (by energy) for 8 weeks. Diets were rich in saturated fatty acids, n-6 polyunsaturated fatty acid (PUFA), or n-3 PUFA, each at a sufficient (11, 35 and 68 mg/kg) and a supplemented vitamin E level (1028, 1031 and 1030 mg/kg respectively). Feeding n-6 PUFA marginally decreased % phagocytosing cells at the low vitamin E level, but had no other effects on immune function. The n-3 PUFA diets decreased production of prostaglandin E2 while increasing oxidative burst and tumour necrosis factor α production. In addition adaptive Th1-driven responses (immunoglobulin, Ig)G2a, IgG2b, interferon-γ:interleukin 4) were decreased, whereas Th2-driven and mucosal immune responses were increased (IgE) or unaffected (IgG1, IgA). Combination with high levels of α-tocopherol did not affect the reduced prostaglandin E2 production, augmented the increase of tumour necrosis factor α production and tended to ameliorate the selective suppressive effects of n-3 PUFA on certain Th1-driven effects (interferon-γ:interleukin 4 ratio and IgG2a levels). We conclude that the sensitisation model appears useful for application in nutrition research. It allows a broad assessment of the effects of dietary intervention on various aspects of immune responsiveness, and as such provides a valuable model to assess, characterise and rank effects of foods and/or nutrients on a range of immune functions, including Th1–Th2 polarisation.

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Corresponding author

*Corresponding author: Dr Raymond Pieters, fax +31 10 460 5993, email


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