Until now, scientists were not entirely sure about fish oil’s immune enhancing effects, which is widely believed to help prevent disease by reducing inflammation.
A new study helps provide clarity on this by showing that DHA-rich fish oil enhances B cell activity, a white blood cell, challenging the notion that fish oil is only immunosuppressive.
This discovery is important as it shows that fish oil does not necessarily reduce the overall immune response to lower inflammation, possibly opening the doors for the use of fish oil among those with compromised immune systems.
“Fish oil may have immune enhancing properties that could benefit immunocompromised individuals,” Jenifer Fenton, Ph.D., M.P.H., a researcher involved in the work from the Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition at Michigan State University in East Lansing, Michigan, said.
To make this discovery, researchers used two groups of mice.
One group was fed a control diet, and the other was fed a diet supplemented with DHA-rich fish oil for five weeks.
B cells were harvested from several tissues and then stimulated in culture.
Researchers then looked for markers of B cell activation on the cell surface, B cell membrane changes, and B cell cytokine production.
They found that DHA-enriched fish oil enhanced B cell activation and select antibody production, which may actually aid immune responses associated with pathogen clearance, while possibly dampening the totality of the inflammatory response.
The research is published in the Journal of Leukocyte Biology.