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Immunomodulation by dietary long chain omega-3 fatty acids and the potential for adverse health outcomes

  • Jenifer I. Fenton
    Correspondence
    Corresponding author at: 208B G.M. Trout FSHN Bldg., Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI 48824, United States. Tel.: +1 517 355 8474x130; fax: +1 517 353 8963.
    Affiliations
    Department of Food Science and Human, College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI, United States

    College of Osteopathic Medicine, Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI 48824, United States
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  • Norman G. Hord
    Affiliations
    School of Biological and Population Health Sciences, College of Public Health and Human Sciences, Oregon State University, Corvallis, OR, United States
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  • Sanjoy Ghosh
    Affiliations
    Department of Biology, University of BC-Okanagan, Kelowna, BC, Canada
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  • Eric A. Gurzell
    Affiliations
    Department of Food Science and Human, College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI, United States
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Published:October 31, 2013DOI:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.plefa.2013.09.011

      Abstract

      Recommendations to consume fish for prevention of cardiovascular disease (CVD), along with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration-approved generally recognized as safe (GRAS) status for long chain omega-3 fatty acids, may have had the unanticipated consequence of encouraging long-chain omega-3 (ω-3) fatty acid [(eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA)] supplementation and fortification practices. While there is evidence supporting a protective role for EPA/DHA supplementation in reducing sudden cardiac events, the safety and efficacy of supplementation with LCω-3PUFA in the context of other disease outcomes is unclear. Recent studies of bacterial, viral, and fungal infections in animal models of infectious disease demonstrate that LCω-3PUFA intake dampens immunity and alters pathogen clearance and can result in reduced survival. The same physiological properties of EPA/DHA that are responsible for the amelioration of inflammation associated with chronic cardiovascular pathology or autoimmune states, may impair pathogen clearance during acute infections by decreasing host resistance or interfere with tumor surveillance resulting in adverse health outcomes. Recent observations that high serum LCω-3PUFA levels are associated with higher risk of prostate cancer and atrial fibrillation raise concern for adverse outcomes. Given the widespread use of supplements and fortification of common food items with LCω-3PUFA, this review focuses on the immunomodulatory effects of the dietary LCω-3PUFAs, EPA and DHA, the mechanistic basis for potential negative health outcomes, and calls for biomarker development and validation as rational first steps towards setting recommended dietary intake levels.

      Abbreviations:

      TLR (Toll-like receptor), RA (Rheumatoid arthritis), CHD (Coronary heart disease)

      Keywords

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