The immune benefits of omega-3 fats are generally described as their ability to quell inflammation by balancing the omega-3/omega-6 ratio. Omega-3 fats have an anti-inflammatory effect, and an excess amount of omega-6 fats have an inflammatory effect. Mistaken conclusions have been drawn about the anti-inflammatory effects of omega-3s being immune-suppressive. Dr. Smith has previously helped to explain that immune function is an intricate balance, with many factors at play, and that omega-3s play a role in immune balance, most of all.
A recent study published in the Journal of Leukocyte Biology has uncovered an immune-stimulation effect of DHA-enriched omega-3 fish oil in an animal model that detects immune cell function. Researchers found that the omega-3 fish oil enhanced function of B cells—white blood cells important to the function of the adaptive branch of the immune system, which produces antibodies to foreign invaders such as allergens or pathogens.
“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,” stated S. Raza Shaikh, PhD, a researcher involved in the study.
We must remember that omega-3 fats become incorporated into the cell membranes of almost all cells in the body. They are also present, at least temporarily, in the blood stream and other areas of the body as they become assimilated into cells and tissues. Due to their widespread presence throughout the body, and in light of the myriad benefits they display, it’s not surprising that their immune-promoting effects involve boosting immunity at the same time as they quell inflammation.
Again, this comes back to balance—one of the most prominent properties of this important nutrient. Omega-3 fats can be considered one of the great balancing nutrients and part of a healthy diet.