Polyunsaturated fatty acids, inflammation, and immunity

Lipids. 2001 Sep;36(9):1007-24. doi: 10.1007/s11745-001-0812-7.

Abstract

The fatty acid composition of inflammatory and immune cells is sensitive to change according to the fatty acid composition of the diet. In particular, the proportion of different types of polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA) in these cells is readily changed, and this provides a link between dietary PUFA intake, inflammation, and immunity. The n-6 PUFA arachidonic acid (AA) is the precursor of prostaglandins, leukotrienes, and related compounds, which have important roles in inflammation and in the regulation of immunity. Fish oil contains the n-3 PUFA eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA). Feeding fish oil results in partial replacement of AA in cell membranes by EPA. This leads to decreased production of AA-derived mediators. In addition, EPA is a substrate for cyclooxygenase and lipoxygenase and gives rise to mediators that often have different biological actions or potencies than those formed from AA. Animal studies have shown that dietary fish oil results in altered lymphocyte function and in suppressed production of proinflammatory cytokines by macrophages. Supplementation of the diet of healthy human volunteers with fish oil-derived n-3 PUFA results in decreased monocyte and neutrophil chemotaxis and decreased production of proinflammatory cytokines. Fish oil feeding has been shown to ameliorate the symptoms of some animal models of autoimmune disease. Clinical studies have reported that fish oil supplementation has beneficial effects in rheumatoid arthritis, inflammatory bowel disease, and among some asthmatics, supporting the idea that the n-3 PUFA in fish oil are anti-inflammatory and immunomodulatory.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Arachidonic Acid / immunology
  • Arachidonic Acid / metabolism
  • Arachidonic Acid / pharmacology
  • Eicosanoids / metabolism*
  • Fatty Acids, Unsaturated / pharmacology
  • Fatty Acids, Unsaturated / physiology*
  • Fish Oils / pharmacology
  • Humans
  • Immune System / drug effects
  • Immune System / physiology*
  • Immune System Diseases / metabolism
  • Immune System Diseases / physiopathology
  • Immunity
  • Infant
  • Infant Food
  • Inflammation / immunology*
  • Inflammation / physiopathology
  • Linoleic Acid / immunology
  • Linoleic Acid / metabolism
  • Th1 Cells / drug effects
  • Th1 Cells / immunology
  • Th2 Cells / drug effects
  • Th2 Cells / immunology

Substances

  • Eicosanoids
  • Fatty Acids, Unsaturated
  • Fish Oils
  • Arachidonic Acid
  • Linoleic Acid