The excessive use of omega-3 fatty acid fish oil supplements and the increasing inclusion of omega-3 fatty acids in vast amounts of prepared foods dramatically add to the importance of understanding how the immunosuppressive properties of fish oil can impact human ability to respond to viral infection.
A 2014 study published in Cancer Immunology Immunotherapy looked at myeloid-derived suppressor cells (MDSCs) that have now been identified as a new type of immunosuppressive induced in cancer, obesity, viral infection and autoimmune diseases.
These immune cells originate from bone marrow stem cells, as do macrophages and neutrophils, but MDSCs are suggested to inhibit the activity of thyroid produced T cells.
This study shows that dietary intake of excessive fish oil suppresses CD8 T cell activation and proliferation in vivo via elevated levels of MDSCs.
CD8 T cell lymphocytes secrete large amounts of gamma-interferon, which is one of the body’s major defenses against viruses.
CD8 T cells recognize antigens on the surface of virus-infected cells and bind to the infected cells and kill them. This is particularly important during viral flu and cold season. These cells also have antitumor activity.
Clinical and experimental evidence prove that cancer tissues with high infiltration of MDSC are associated with poor patient prognosis and resistance to therapies.
Mice studies have shown that two-week feeding of fish oil significantly decreases the numbers of CD8 T cells in the lungs of influenza virus-infected mice, resulting in a high morbidity and mortality. The data from this study demonstrates that fish oil effect on T cell activation may be due to the expansion of MDSCs that suppress T cells via a direct cell to cell contact.
Excessive fish oil has also been suggested to interfere with the production of natural killer cells (NK cells), a type of cytotoxic lymphocyte critical to the innate immune system with the ability to react immediately with no prior exposure to the pathogen. NK cells provide rapid responses to virally infected cells.
NK cell’s ability to recognize stressed cells in the absence of antibodies produces a much faster immune reaction to new viruses that seem to be immune to many of the currently used drug therapies.
Via: Ellen Troyer, with Spencer Thornton, MD, and the Biosyntrx staff
PEARL: There is no denying that studies have shown some beneficial anti-inflammatory properties of omega-3 fish oil on chronic diseases and we recommend limited supplementation on the days cold water fish are not part of the diet. However, omega-3 suppression of the immune system can be deleterious when a life-saving inflammatory response is required to eliminate invading pathogens, such as influenza and other viral infections. Following infection, a controlled and coordinated immune response is absolutely essential for resolving infection. Unfortunately, excessive omega-3 fatty acids can interfere with this innate response.
The Biosyntrx position on the excessive use of fish oil and the potential for adverse health outcomes is not new. Here is a very short Ellen Troyer video clip from a 2010 Colorado CE course addressing diet and the potential dangers of excessive fish oil.
If you are attending AAO in Chicago next week, please stop by the Biosyntrx booth #3101 for a visit and to learn more about our outstanding nutritional product line.
References including a study titled “Immunomodulation by dietary long chain omega-3 fatty acids and the potential for adverse health outcomes,” published in 2013 in the most prestigious peer-reviewed fatty acid journal, Prostaglandins, Leukotrienes, Essential Fatty Acids further supports today’s Pearl.
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