Consumption of n-6 polyunsaturated fatty acids greatly exceeds that of n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids. The n-6 polyunsaturated fatty acid arachidonic gives rise to the eicosanoid family of inflammatory mediators (prostaglandins, leukotrienes and related metabolites) and through these regulates the activities of inflammatory cells, the production of cytokines and the various balances within the immune system. Fish oil and oily fish are good sources of long chain n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids. Consumption of these fatty acids decreases the amount of arachidonic acid in cell membranes and so available for eicosanoid production. Thus, n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids act as arachidonic acid antagonists. Components of both natural and acquired immunity, including the production of key inflammatory cytokines, can be affected by n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids. Although some of the effects of n-3 fatty acids may be brought about by modulation of the amount and types of eicosanoids made, it is possible that these fatty acids might elicit some of their effects by eicosanoid-independent mechanisms. Such n-3 fatty acid-induced effects may be of use as a therapy for acute and chronic inflammation, and for disorders which involve an inappropriately activated immune response.