Effects of fish oils on ex vivo B-cell responses of obese subjects upon BCR/TLR stimulation: a pilot study

J Nutr Biochem. 2018 Mar;53:72-80. doi: 10.1016/j.jnutbio.2017.10.009. Epub 2017 Nov 2.


The long-chain n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (LC-PUFAs) eicosapentaenoic (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) in fish oil have immunomodulatory properties. B cells are a poorly studied target of EPA/DHA in humans. Therefore, in this pilot study, we tested how n-3 LC-PUFAs influence B-cell responses of obese humans. Obese men and women were assigned to consume four 1-g capsules per day of olive oil (OO, n=12), fish oil (FO, n=12) concentrate or high-DHA-FO concentrate (n=10) for 12 weeks in a parallel design. Relative to baseline, FO (n=9) lowered the percentage of circulating memory and plasma B cells, whereas the other supplements had no effect. There were no postintervention differences between the three supplements. Next, ex vivo B-cell cytokines were assayed after stimulation of Toll-like receptors (TLRs) and/or the B-cell receptor (BCR) to determine if the effects of n-3 LC-PUFAs were pathway-dependent. B-cell IL-10 and TNFα secretion was respectively increased with high DHA-FO (n=10), relative to baseline, with respective TLR9 and TLR9+BCR stimulation. OO (n=12) and FO (n=12) had no influence on B-cell cytokines compared to baseline, and there were no differences in postintervention cytokine levels between treatment groups. Finally, ex vivo antibody levels were assayed with FO (n=7) after TLR9+BCR stimulation. Compared to baseline, FO lowered IgM but not IgG levels accompanied by select modifications to the plasma lipidome. Altogether, the results suggest that n-3 LC-PUFAs could modulate B-cell activity in humans, which will require further testing in a larger cohort.

Keywords: Antibody levels; B cells; B-cell receptor; Cytokines; Fish oil; Lipidomics; Toll-like receptors.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • B-Lymphocytes / drug effects*
  • B-Lymphocytes / immunology
  • Body Mass Index
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Docosahexaenoic Acids / blood
  • Double-Blind Method
  • Eating / drug effects
  • Eicosapentaenoic Acid / blood
  • Exercise
  • Female
  • Fish Oils / immunology
  • Fish Oils / pharmacology*
  • Humans
  • Immunoglobulin M / blood
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Obesity / diet therapy*
  • Obesity / immunology
  • Obesity / metabolism
  • Olive Oil / pharmacology
  • Pilot Projects
  • Receptors, Antigen, B-Cell / metabolism
  • Toll-Like Receptors / immunology
  • Toll-Like Receptors / metabolism


  • Fish Oils
  • Immunoglobulin M
  • Olive Oil
  • Receptors, Antigen, B-Cell
  • Toll-Like Receptors
  • Docosahexaenoic Acids
  • Eicosapentaenoic Acid