Purpose: To investigate the effects of docosahexaenoic-(DHA)-rich fish oil (FO) supplementation on lymphocyte function before and after a marathon race.
Methods: Twenty-one athletes participated in this study. Eight marathon runners were supplemented with 3 g of FO daily for 60 d (FO group), and 13 athletes were not supplemented (C group). The following measures of lymphocytes were taken before and after the marathon: cell proliferation, cytokine production (IL-2, IL-10, TNF-α, and IL-4), and signs of cell death.
Results: In the C group, the marathon had no effect on lymphocyte proliferation, DNA fragmentation, or mitochondrial membrane polarization; however, the marathon increased phosphatidylserine externalization (by 2.5-fold), induced a loss of plasma membrane integrity (by 20%), and decreased IL-2, TNF-α, and IL-10 production (by 55%, 95%, and 50%, respectively). FO supplementation did not prevent lymphocyte death induced by the marathon, as indicated by cell viability, DNA fragmentation, and phosphatidylserine externalization. However, FO supplementation increased lymphocyte proliferation before and after the marathon, and before the race, FO supplementation decreased IL-2, TNF-α, and IL-10 production in concanavalin-A-stimulated lymphocytes (by 55%, 95%, and 58%, respectively) compared with cells from the C group. The production of cytokines was not altered before or after the race in the FO group.
Conclusions: DHA-rich FO supplementation increased lymphocyte proliferation and prevented a decrease in cytokine production, but it did not prevent lymphocyte death induced by participation in the marathon. Overall, DHA rich-FO supplementation has beneficial effects in preventing some of the changes in lymphocyte function induced by marathon participation.