Toxicity of a soybean oil emulsion on human lymphocytes and neutrophils

JPEN J Parenter Enteral Nutr. Mar-Apr 2006;30(2):115-23. doi: 10.1177/0148607106030002115.


Background: The incorporation of lipid emulsions in parenteral diets is a requirement for energy and essential fatty acid supply to critically ill patients. In this study, the toxicity of a lipid emulsion rich (60%) in triacylglycerol of omega-6 polyunsaturated fatty acids on leukocytes from healthy volunteers was investigated.

Methods: Eleven volunteers were recruited, and blood samples were collected before infusion of a soybean oil emulsion, immediately afterwards, and 18 hours later. The cells were studied immediately after isolation and again after 24 hours or 48 hours in culture. The following determinations were made: composition and concentration of fatty acids in plasma, lymphocytes and neutrophils, lymphocyte proliferation, levels of cell viability, DNA fragmentation, phosphatidylserine externalization, mitochondrial depolarization, reactive oxygen species production, and neutral lipid accumulation.

Results: Soybean oil emulsion decreased lymphocyte proliferation and provoked neutrophil and lymphocyte apoptosis and necrosis. Evidence is presented herein that soybean oil emulsion is less toxic to neutrophils than to lymphocytes. The mechanism of cell death induced by this oil emulsion was characterized by mitochondrial membrane depolarization and neutral lipid accumulation but did not alter reactive oxygen species production.

Conclusions: Soybean oil emulsion given as a single dose of 500 mL promotes lymphocyte and neutrophil death that may enhance the susceptibility of the patients to infections.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Apoptosis / drug effects*
  • Cell Division / drug effects
  • Cells, Cultured
  • DNA Fragmentation
  • Electrophysiology
  • Emulsions / administration & dosage
  • Emulsions / toxicity*
  • Fat Emulsions, Intravenous / toxicity
  • Fatty Acids / blood
  • Humans
  • Lipid Metabolism
  • Lymphocyte Activation
  • Lymphocytes / drug effects*
  • Lymphocytes / physiology
  • Lymphocytes / ultrastructure
  • Male
  • Mitochondria / physiology
  • Neutrophils / drug effects*
  • Neutrophils / physiology
  • Neutrophils / ultrastructure
  • Phosphatidylserines / metabolism
  • Reactive Oxygen Species / metabolism
  • Soybean Oil / administration & dosage
  • Soybean Oil / toxicity*


  • Emulsions
  • Fat Emulsions, Intravenous
  • Fatty Acids
  • Phosphatidylserines
  • Reactive Oxygen Species
  • Soybean Oil