Fish oild has a beneficial effect for the immune system, as revealed by new research. (Photo: Stock File) (Photo: StockFile)
Fish oil boosts immune system: study
Thursday, April 04, 2013, 03:10 (GMT + 9)
Scientists have determined the immune-boosting effects of fish oil rich in DHA and EPA, which is already generally thought to help prevent disease by alleviating inflammation. The new study shows that DHA-rich fish oil promotes the activity of B cells, which are a type of white blood cell, a finding which challenges the concept that fish oil works as an immunosuppressive only.
The results were published in the April 2013 issue of the Journal of Leukocyte Biology.
According to the study, these findings are significant because they demonstrate that fish oil does not necessarily mitigate the overall immune response in order to lower inflammation. This conclusion could pave the way for the use of fish oil to treat patients with compromised immune systems.
B cells belong to a group of white blood cells, lymphocytes, that are crucial to the body’s natural immune response system, the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology reports.
"Fish oil may have immune-enhancing properties that could benefit immunocompromised individuals," said Jenifer Fenton, PhD, MPH, a researcher involved in the work from the Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition at Michigan State University in East Lansing, Michigan.
The study consisted of using two groups of mice, one of which was fed a control diet, and the other was fed a diet supplemented with DHA-rich fish oil for five weeks. B cells were then harvested from several tissues in the mice and then stimulated in culture to look for new activity.
Researchers then examined the culture for markers of B cell activation on the cell surface, B cell membrane changes and B cell cytokine production. The team discovered that DHA-enriched fish oil improved B cell activation and antibody production, a result which may in fact assist immune responses related to pathogen clearance, while possibly reducing inflammation.
"This work confirms similar findings on fish oil and B cells from our lab, and moves us one step closer to understanding the immune enhancing properties of EPA and DHA," said S Raza Shaikh, PhD, a researcher also involved in the work from the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at East Carolina University.
By Natalia Real