Effects on the development of the immune system

Despite the amount of work done in healthy adults, human diseases and animal models of disease, little work has been done on the effect of dietary PUFAs on T-cell development in the infant or young animal. However, a recent study examined the effect of altered long-chain PUFA availability on the functional indices of immune development during the first 42 days of human life (Field et al., 2000). A group of clinically stable preterm infants were fed human milk, standard preterm infant formula or a preterm infant formula containing DHA (0.4%) and arachidonic acid (0.6%) for the first 42 days of life. Using blood samples obtained at 14 and 42 days of age, the effect of diet on some parameters of immune development was studied. Compared with standard formula, feeding long-chain PUFAs significantly increased the proportion of antigen mature (CD45RO+) CD4+ cells (by approximately 25%), compared with non-supplemented formula-fed infants and lowered the proportion of immature (CD45RA+) CD4+ cells to levels not different from human milk-fed infants. These changes in the siaylation of the CD45 region (RA vs. RO) are believed to reflect the maturation of the immune system (Bofill et al., 1994). These data suggest that adding DHA and arachidonic acid to preterm formula may have assisted in the maturation of peripheral CD4+ cells. Between 14 and 42 days of age, the ability of peripheral mononuclear cells from unsupplemented formula-fed infants to produce IL-10 was lower than that of human milk-fed infants (Field et al., 2000). IL-10 production by cells from infants fed the formula containing DHA plus arachidonic acid did not differ from that of the human milk-fed infants. Feeding the formula containing DHA plus arachidonic acid resulted in a significant decrease in the amount of secretory IL-2 receptor (SIL-2R) produced by stimulated peripheral mononuclear cells at 42 days of age, as compared with 14 days (Field et al., 2000). This work supports an effect of dietary lipids, particularly long-chain PUFAs, on immune development.

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