Whole-blood fatty acids and inflammation in European children: the IDEFICS Study

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Fatty acids are hypothesized to influence cardiovascular disease risk because of their effect on inflammation. The aim of this study is to assess the relationship between whole-blood fatty acids (WBFAs) and high-sensitivity C-reactive protein (hs-CRP) in European children.


A total of 1401 subjects (697 boys and 704 girls) aged between 2 and 9 years from the IDEFICS (Identification and prevention of Dietary- and lifestyle-induced health EFfects in Children and infantS) study were measured in this cross-sectional analysis. The sample was divided into three categories of hs-CRP. Associations between WBFA and hs-CRP were assessed by logistic regression models adjusting for body mass index (BMI), country, age, breastfeeding, mother's education and hours of physical activity.


Linoleic acid (LA) (P = 0.013, 95% confidence interval (CI): 0.822-0.977) and sum of n-6 WBFA (P = 0.029, 95% CI: 0.866-0.992) concentrations were associated with lower concentrations of hs-CRP in boys. In girls, a high ratio of eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA)/arachidonic acid (AA) was associated (P = 0.018, 95% CI: 0.892-0.989) with lower hs-CRP concentrations. In contrast, sum of blood n-6 highly unsaturated fatty acids (P = 0.012, 95% CI: 1.031-1.284), AA (P = 0.007, 95% CI: 1.053-1.395) and AA/LA ratio (P = 0.005, 95% CI: 1.102-1.703) were associated (P < 0.05) with higher concentrations of hs-CRP in girls.


The n-6 WBFAs (sum of n-6 FA and LA) were associated with lower hs-CRP in boys and with higher hs-CRP in girls (AA, sum of n-6 highly unsaturated and AA/LA ratio). More studies are needed to identify the optimal levels of WBFAs to avoid low-grade inflammation in children considering the differences by sex and BMI.

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