Fish oil may help boost immunity in some people with certain health conditions like rheumatoid arthritis, celiac di
Fish oil may help boost immunity in some people with certain health conditions like rheumatoid arthritis, celiac disease and other autoimmune disorders in which the immune system attacks the body’s healthy cells, according to a new study published in the Journal of Leukocyte Biology.
The findings suggest that instead of suppressing the body’s immune response, fish oil actually enhances the function of B cells—white blood cells that enforce nonspecific and specific immunity.
Inflammation is a sign of increased immune system activity so it’s widely thought that if fish oil fights inflammation, it also may influence overall immune function.
Researchers at Michigan State University’s department of food science and human nutrition examined that influence by studying how the B cells of mice respond to fish oil. B cells are white blood cells that produce antibodies and call other immune cells to join the fight when infections occur.
For five weeks, one group of mice was fed a regular diet while the others had a diet supplemented with fish oil rich in the fatty acid docosahexaenoic acids (DHA). The researchers found that mice in the fish oil group had B cells that produced more antibodies and more of the chemicals that alert other cells to threats.
“Our data showed that the B cells not only weren’t suppressed—which would be the dogma—but that fish oil even enhanced their function,” said lead researcher Jenifer Fenton. While more research is needed before the mouse study’s implications for humans become clear, she said boosting B-cell activity may be good for some people. “For example, the complication and mortality rate from influenza is higher among obese individuals, so that could be a situation where enhancing B-cell function could be useful.”
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