Influence of dietary supplementation with long-chain n-3 and n-6 polyunsaturated fatty acids on blood inflammatory cell populations and functions and on plasma soluble adhesion molecules in healthy adults

F. Thies, Elizabeth A. Miles, G. Nebe-von-Caron, J.R. Powell, T.L. Hurst, E.A. Newsholme, Philip C. Calder

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214 Citations (Scopus)


Greatly increasing the amounts of flaxseed oil [rich in a-linolenic acid (ALNA)] or fish oil (FO); [rich in eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA)] in the diet can decrease inflammatory cell functions and so might impair host defense. The objective of this study was to determine the effect of dietary supplementation with moderate levels of ALNA, gamma -linolenic acid (GLA), arachidonic acid (ARA), DHA, or FO on inflammatory cell numbers and functions and on circulating levels of soluble adhesion molecules. Healthy subjects aged 55 to 75 yr consumed nine capsules per day for 12 wk. The capsules contained placebo oil (an 80:20 mix of palm and sunflowerseed oils) or blends of placebo oil with oils rich in ALNA, GLA, ARA, or DHA or FO. Subjects in these groups consumed 2 g ALNA; approximately 700 mg GLA, ARA, or DHA; or I g EPA plus DHA (720 mg EPA + 280 mg DHA) daily from the capsules. Total fat intake from the capsules was 4 g per day. None of the treatments affected inflammatory cell numbers in the bloodstream; neutrophil and monocyte phagocytosis or respiratory burst in response to E. coli; production of tumor necrosis factor-alpha, interleukin-1 beta, and interleukin-6 in response to bacterial lipopolysaccharide; or plasma concentrations of soluble intercellular adhesion molecule-1. In contrast, the ALNA and FO treatments decreased the plasma concentrations of soluble vascular cell adhesion molecule-1 (16 and 28% decrease, respectively) and soluble E-selectin (23 and 17% decrease, respectively). It is concluded that, in contrast to previous reports using higher amounts of these fatty acids, a moderate increase in consumption of long-chain n-6 or n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids does not significantly affect inflammatory cell numbers or neutrophil and monocyte responses in humans and so would not be expected to cause immune impairment. Furthermore, we conclude that moderate levels of ALNA and FO, which could be incorporated into the diet, can decrease some markers of endothelial activation and that this mechanism of action may contribute to the reported health benefits of n-3 fatty acids.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1183-1193
Number of pages10
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2001



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