Important differences exist in the dose-response relationship between diet and immune cell fatty acids in humans and rodents

Lipids. 2007 Nov;42(11):961-79. doi: 10.1007/s11745-007-3106-9. Epub 2007 Aug 23.


Omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (n-3 PUFA) are noted for their ability to diminish inflammatory and immune responses in vitro and in a variety of animal-based models of autoimmunity and inflammation. Yet, recent systematic reviews suggest that the evidence for these fatty acids having beneficial effects on inflammation or autoimmunity in humans is equivocal. A possible explanation for these disappointing and somewhat paradoxical findings emerged from the analyses described in this review. The available data on the changes in immune cell fatty acid profiles in mice, rats and humans, fed various forms and amounts of n-3 PUFA are summarized and displayed graphically. The dose-response curves generated provide new insights into the relationship between dietary n-3 PUFA and immune cell fatty acid profiles. The author suggests that the poor predictive value of most in vitro as well as many animal trials may, in part, be a consequence of the frequent adoption of experimental conditions that create differences in immune cell fatty acid profiles that far exceed what is possible in free-living humans through dietary intervention. Recommendations for improving the preclinical value of future in vitro and animal-based studies with n-3 PUFA are provided.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Diet*
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Fatty Acids, Omega-3 / administration & dosage*
  • Fatty Acids, Omega-3 / analysis*
  • Humans
  • Immunity / drug effects*
  • Leukocytes, Mononuclear / chemistry
  • Lymphocytes / chemistry
  • Mice
  • Monocytes / chemistry
  • Neutrophils / chemistry
  • Rats
  • Spleen / chemistry
  • Spleen / cytology


  • Fatty Acids, Omega-3