Method: Mice were mated 2 weeks after arrival at 10 weeks of age. Directly after birth of the offspring, mice in the lactation group were transferred to the AIN93 control diet supplemented with short-chain galacto- and long-chain fructo-oligosaccharides (scGOS/lcFOS; ratio 9:1). Mice in the sham and control groups were kept on control AIN93. The male offspring were sensitized to OVA at the age of 6 weeks, with the exception of those in the sham group, and the acute allergic skin response was measured at the age of 8 weeks. Airway hyperreactivity to metacholine was measured after 3 consecutive airway challenges with OVA aerosol.
Results: Although the acute allergic skin response and the airway hyperreactivity did not differ between the control group and the lactation group allergic inflammation was significantly down-regulated by the dietary intervention during lactation. Total cells numbers, and percentages of eosinophils and lymphocytes in the bronchoalveolar lavage fluid as markers for allergic inflammation were significantly decreased in the offspring of dams fed scGOS/lcFOS during lactation. Analysis of total and OVA specific immunoglobulin levels showed that the specific diet did lead to lower levels of OVA-specific and total IgG1 levels. OVA-specific IgE levels did not differ between the lactation and the control group, although levels of total IgE were significantly lower in the lactation group.
Conclusion: Maternal supplementation with scGOS/lcFOS during lactation did down-regulate allergic inflammation in the lungs. In addition immunoglobulin levels, relevant for allergic disease, were down-regulated as well. In contrast, allergic skin reactions and lung functions were not affected. These data are comparable to studies performed earlier in which dietary intervention with scGOS/lcFOS was performed during pregnancy only although in these animals skin reactions and lung function were affected as well. Altogether, our data suggest that early life dietary intervention with non-digestible carbohydrates may be beneficial for the allergic outcome later in life, which may also be highly relevant for the development of atopic disease in humans.