The "Western diet" is characterized by increased intake of saturated and omega-6 (n-6) fatty acids with a relative reduction in omega-3 (n-3) consumption. These fatty acids can directly and indirectly modulate the gut microbiome, resulting in altered host immunity.

Omega-3 fatty acids can also directly modulate immunity through alterations in the phospholipid membranes of immune cells, inhibition of n-6 induced inflammation, down-regulation of inflammatory transcription factors, and by serving as pre-cursors to anti-inflammatory lipid mediators such as resolvins and protectins.

We have previously shown that consumption by breeder mice of diets high in saturated and n-6 fatty acids have inflammatory and immune-modulating effects on offspring that are at least partially driven by vertical transmission of altered gut microbiota.

To determine if parental diets high in n-3 fatty acids could also affect offspring microbiome and immunity, we fed breeding mice an n-3-rich diet with 40% calories from fat and measured immune outcomes in their offspring.

We found offspring from mice fed diets high in n-3 had altered gut microbiomes and modestly enhanced anti-inflammatory IL-10 from both colonic and splenic tissue. Omega-3 pups were protected during peanut oral allergy challenge with small but measurable alterations in peanut-related serologies. However, n-3 pups displayed a tendency toward worsened responses during E. coli sepsis and had significantly worse outcomes during Staphylococcus aureus skin infection.

Our results indicate excess parental n-3 fatty acid intake alters microbiome and immune response in offspring.

PMID: 24489864

See following website for full manuscript.