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Oral administration of raffinose, a naturally occurring indigestible oligosaccharide, has reportedly ameliorated atopic dermatitis in human subjects although the mechanism is unknown. The present study investigated the effect of dietary raffinose on allergen-induced airway eosinophilia in ovalbumin-sensitised Brown Norway rats as an atopic disease model. Brown Norway rats were immunised by subcutaneous injection with ovalbumin on day 0 and fed either a control diet or the diet supplemented with raffinose (50 g/kg diet). The rats were exposed to aerosolised ovalbumin on day 20, and broncho-alveolar lavage fluid was obtained on the next day. The number of eosinophils in the fluid was significantly lower in the rats fed the raffinose diet than in those fed the control diet. Dietary raffinose significantly reduced IL-4 and IL-5 mRNA levels in lung tissue and tended to lower ovalbumin-specific Ig E levels. Suppression of eosinophilia by dietary raffinose was still observed in caecectomised and neomycin-administered rats, suggesting little contribution by the colonic bacteria to the effect of raffinose. Intraperitoneal administration of raffinose also suppressed eosinophilia. Significant concentrations of raffinose were detected in portal venous and abdominal arterial plasma after the intragastric administration of raffinose. Overall, the findings suggest that dietary raffinose ameliorates allergic airway eosinophilia at least partly via post-absorptive mechanisms in Brown Norway rats.
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