Modulatory effects of dietary lipids on immune system functions

Immunol Cell Biol. 2000 Feb;78(1):31-9. doi: 10.1046/j.1440-1711.2000.00875.x.


Dietary lipid manipulation may affect a great number of immune parameters, such as lymphocyte proliferation, cytokine synthesis, natural killer (NK) cell activity, phagocytosis and so on. The immunomodulation induced by dietary fatty acids may be applied in the amelioration of inflammatory disorders, such as autoimmune diseases. However, the mechanisms that participate in these processes are still poorly understood. It is probable that modulation of immune system by fatty acids of the diet may occur by alteration of membrane fluidity, lipid peroxide formation, eicosanoid production or regulation of gene expression. However, recent studies have reported the effects of several free fatty acids on apoptosis induction of in vitro cultures. In fact, a possible explanation of the effects that fatty acids promote on the immune system cells could be associated with an apoptotic process performed in an irreversible way. In vivo studies have demonstrated the ability of fatty acids to alter the survival of animals fed diets containing oils and infected with a pathogenic bacterium. Experimental infection in animals fed dietary lipids produces a modification of resistance to micro-organisms. The present review analyses all of these parameters that dietary fatty acids are capable of altering in order to modify the immune response. Further studies will be needed to establish the mechanisms involved in immune system regulation, reduction of symptoms derived from autoimmune pathologies and so on.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Apoptosis / drug effects
  • Bacterial Infections / immunology
  • Cytokines / biosynthesis
  • Dietary Fats / pharmacology*
  • Eicosanoids / biosynthesis
  • Fatty Acids / pharmacology*
  • Gene Expression Regulation / drug effects
  • Humans
  • Immune System / drug effects*
  • In Vitro Techniques
  • Inflammation / immunology
  • Killer Cells, Natural / drug effects
  • Lipid Peroxidation / drug effects
  • Lymphocyte Activation / drug effects
  • Membrane Fluidity / drug effects
  • Phagocytosis / drug effects
  • Virus Diseases / immunology


  • Cytokines
  • Dietary Fats
  • Eicosanoids
  • Fatty Acids