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Polyunsaturated fatty acid intake and prevalence of eczema and rhinoconjunctivitis in Japanese children: The Ryukyus Child Health Study

Yoshihiro Miyake1*, Keiko Tanaka1, Satoshi Sasaki2 and Masashi Arakawa3

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Preventive Medicine and Public Health, Faculty of Medicine, Fukuoka University, Fukuoka, Japan

2 Department of Social and Preventive Epidemiology, School of Public Health, The University of Tokyo, Tokyo, Japan

3 Field Science for Health and Recreation, Faculty of Tourism Sciences and Industrial Management, University of the Ryukyus, Okinawa, Japan

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BMC Public Health 2011, 11:358  doi:10.1186/1471-2458-11-358

Published: 21 May 2011



The recent increase in the prevalence of allergic disorders might be a consequence of increased intake of n-6 polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) and reduced intake of n-3 PUFAs. The current cross-sectional study examined the association between intake levels and the prevalence of eczema and rhinoconjunctivitis in Japanese children.


Subjects were 23,388 schoolchildren aged 6-15 years residing in Okinawa. The presence of eczema and/or rhinoconjunctivitis was determined according to the criteria of the International Study of Asthma and Allergies in Childhood. A brief diet history questionnaire for children and adolescents was administered to acquire information on dietary factors. Adjustment was made for age, sex, residential municipality, number of siblings, smoking in the household, body mass index, paternal and maternal history of allergic diseases, and paternal and maternal educational level.


The prevalences of eczema and rhinoconjunctivitis in the previous 12 months were 7.0% and 8.0%, respectively. Consumption of PUFAs, n-3 PUFAs, α-linolenic acid, n-6 PUFAs, and linoleic acid was positively associated with the prevalence of eczema: the adjusted odds ratios (ORs) between extreme quintiles (95% confidence intervals [CIs], P for trend) were 1.26 (1.07-1.48, 0.04), 1.31 (1.11-1.54, 0.009), 1.31 (1.12-1.55, 0.003), 1.26 (1.07-1.48, 0.01), and 1.27 (1.08-1.49, 0.01), respectively. Arachidonic acid intake was independently inversely related to eczema: the adjusted OR between extreme quintiles was 0.81 (0.69-0.95, 0.0008). Eczema was not associated with eicosapentaenoic or docosahexaenoic acid intake, or with the ratio of n-3 to n-6 PUFA intake. Only arachidonic acid intake was statistically significantly related to the prevalence of rhinoconjunctivitis, showing a clear inverse linear trend: the adjusted OR between extreme quintiles was 0.86 (0.74-0.997, 0.03).


Consumption of n-3 and n-6 PUFAs, especially α-linolenic acid and linoleic acid, may be positively associated with eczema. Arachidonic acid intake may be inversely related to eczema and rhinoconjunctivitis.