Immune Aspects
of Omega-3 Fatty Acids

This section was compiled by Frank M. Painter, D.C.
Send all comments or additions to:

If there are terms in these articles you don't understand, you can get a definition from the Merriam Webster Medical Dictionary.   If you want information about a specific disease, you can access the Merck Manual.   You can also search Pub Med for more abstracts on this, or any other health topic.


Big Fish Story
There are three types of omega-3s: DHA and EPA, found in fish and marine algae (which is where the fish get them), and alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), which is found in plants, seeds, and nuts. All three have health benefits, but those attributed to DHA and EPA have sparked renewed interest in recent years. Studies show that this tag team may not only reduce a person's risk of heart disease and stroke but also possibly help prevent ailments as diverse as arthritis, Alzheimer's disease, asthma, autoimmune disorders, and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder--and those are just the A's.

Influence of Marine n-3 Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids on Immune Function and
a Systematic Review of Their Effects on Clinical Outcomes in Rheumatoid Arthritis

Br J Nutr. 2012 (Jun);   107 Suppl 2:   S171-84

Marine n-3 PUFAs can affect other aspects of immunity and inflammation relevant to RA, including dendritic cell and T cell function and production of inflammatory cytokines and reactive oxygen species, although findings for these outcomes are not consistent. Fish oil has been shown to slow the development of arthritis in animal models and to reduce disease severity.

Omega-3 Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids and Human Health Outcomes
Biofactors 2009 (May);   35 (3):  266-72

Current intakes of very long chain omega-3 fatty acids, eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) are low in most individuals living in Western countries. At sufficient levels of incorporation, EPA and DHA influence the physical nature of cell membranes and membrane protein-mediated responses, eicosanoid generation, cell signaling and gene expression in many different cell types. Through these mechanisms, EPA and DHA influence cell and tissue physiology, and the way cells and tissues respond to external signals. In most cases, the effects seen are compatible with improvements in disease biomarker profiles or in health-related outcomes. On the basis of the recognized health improvements brought about by long chain omega-3 fatty acids, recommendations have been made to increase their intake.

Changes in Fatty Acid Composition, Platelet Aggregability and RBC Function
in Elderly Subjects with Administration of Low–dose Fish Oil Concentrate
and Comparison with Younger Subjects

Ronen Igakkai Zasshi 1994 (Aug);   31 (8):   596–603

In summary, low dose EPA administration can improve the function of platelet and RBC to an anti–thrombotic state and would be useful to prevent the occurrence of cerebrovascular diseases in elderly subjects without any side effects.

Suppression of Autoimmune Disease by Dietary N-3 Fatty Acids
J. Lipid Res 1993 Aug);   34 (8):   1435–1444

Previous studies have demonstrated that dietary fish oil preparations have anti-inflammatory effects in humans and in experimental animals, but the individual components of fish oils that are responsible for their anti- inflammatory effects have not been documented.

Role of Omega-3 Fatty Acids in Health and Disease
Nutr Res 1993:   13 (1) Suppl:   S19–S45

In summary, the protective effects of omega-3 lipids have been explained based on changes in eicosanoid synthesis and the reduced risk of sudden death from cardiac arrhythmia, increased protection from ischemic myocardium, improved myocardial function and reduction of other cardiovascular and autoimmune disease risks.

Omega-3 Fatty Acids in Health and Disease
and in Growth and Development

Am J Clin Nutr 1991 (Sep):   54 (3):   438–463

In clinical trials eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) in the form of fish oils along with antirheumatic drugs improve joint pain in patients with rheumatoid arthritis; have a beneficial effect in patients with ulcerative colitis; and in combination with drugs, improve the skin lesions, lower the hyperlipidemia from etretinates, and decrease the toxicity of cyclosporin in patients with psoriasis.

Depression of Humoral Responses and Phagocytic Functions in Vivo
and in Vitro by Fish Oil and Eicosapentanoic Acid

Clin Immunol Immunopathol 1989 (Aug);   52 (2):   257–270

These effects of fish oil extracts and EPA on phagocytosis and humoral responses may be advantageously used in the therapy of chronic inflammatory diseases and autoimmune diseases but could be a cause for concern when these compounds are used for longer periods of time and with minimal medical supervision for the prophylaxis of atherosclerosis.

Biological Effects of Fish Oils in Relation to Chronic Diseases
Lipids 1986 (Dec);   21 (12):   731–732

The low incidence of cardiovascular disease in Greenland Eskimos appears to be due to their high intake of seal, whale and fish. The lipids of these marine animals lower serum triglyceride and cholesterol levels and help to prevent blood clotting.

Return to the OMEGA-3 FATTY ACIDS Page

Since 2-01-1998

Updated 4-27-2022

                  © 1995–2023 ~ The Chiropractic Resource Organization ~ All Rights Reserved