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The Role of Omega-3 Fatty Acids & Immune Balance

The Role of Omega-3 Fatty Acids & Immune Balance

The clinical applications of omega-3 have been researched and discussed for many years now. So much so that that they have become an automatic part of a healthy living programme. Despite this there are times of the year, such as the winter months, that people may forget that omega-3 can also be essential to support the immune system.

The clinical applications of omega-3 for immune disorders are vast and have been investigated for decades. In a recent review in the Journal of Molecular Sciences, published in October 2019, the authors reviewed this research in detail and confirmed the importance of the role of omega-3 fatty acids in the functioning of the immune system. The review considers the effects of omega-3 fatty acids on many immune cells including: macrophages, cytokines, neutrophil function, T cells (including T regulatory cells), B cells, dendritic cells, natural killer cells, mast cells, basophils and eosinophils.

As a constitutive part of the cellular membranes, omega-3 fatty acids can regulate cellular membrane properties such as membrane fluidity or complex assembly in lipid rafts. This, by itself, is not particularly new information. However, more recently a new role for omega-3 fatty acids and their derivatives as signaling molecules has emerged. It is thought that this could be due to disruption of pro-inflammatory cascades, by altering cell signaling, cytokines and pro-inflammatory mediators.

Interestingly, some specific immune functions are promoted by dietary omega-3 fatty acids in specific immune cell types, e.g. phagocytosis by macrophages and neutrophils or T-reg differentiation, suggesting that omega-3 fatty acids do not act as unspecific immune-repressors.

Together, this means that maintaining omega-3 saturation is a year round priority to ensure that optimal immune function is achieved.

References:
1. Gutiérrez, S.; Svahn, S.L.; Johansson, M.E. Effects of Omega-3 Fatty Acids on Immune Cells. Int. J. Mol. Sci. 201920, 5028.