Omega-3 DHA (Docosahexaenoic Acid) is commonly known for its ability to improve heart, brain, and vision health, but there are other benefits not as well understood; one of which is the important role it plays in the function of our immune system.
Over the past month we have been sharing information on omega-3’s ability to modulate inflammatory response, offer protection against Covid-19, and support the fight against immune challenge by improving the profile and population of immune cells. Below is a summary of the data that supports those claims.
Inflammation can be a good thing for our bodies, acting as a defence mechanism that provides protection from infection and other hosts. Too much of a response can have a negative impact on the body over time, where the destruction of tissue outweighs healing.Professor Philip Calder in his 2012 paper ‘Omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids and inflammatory processes: nutrition or pharmacology?’1 highlighted a range of studies supporting the fact that marine-based omega-3s (EPA (Eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA) display an “array of anti-inflammatory effects reported across cell culture studies, animal models … and clinical trials”, which are shown in the table below.
There are a range of studies to support this claim, but all showed consistency in a higher omega-3 status delivering improved protection against serious illness associated with covid compared to those with lower levels:
• Asher et al in 20212 in a trial with 100 patients found that “those patients with an omega-3 index at 5.7% or greater were at about 75% lower risk for death compared with those below that value”.
• Ramirez-Santana et al3 study on 144 patients concluded that high levels of omega-3 fatty acids in the blood were associated with a 48% reduction in the risk of serious illness.
Other studies also exist, and whilst sample populations are small, the consistencies in findings across them all highlight that omega-3 has a significant role to play.
According to Camacho-Muñoz et al (2022)4, Western diets typically associated with being high in sugar and fat, “promote obesity and associated chronic low-grade pro-inflammatory environment, leading to impaired immune function, reprogramming of innate and adaptive immune cells, and development of chronic degenerative diseases, including cardiovascular disease”. Not exactly pleasant reading.
However, the animal trial in this study highlighted that supplementing with omega-3 fatty acids can reverse these negative effects, something that is a simpler and more affordable intervention than pharmacological alternatives.
With winter ahead, and of course the accompanying viruses such as seasonal colds, flu and more recently covid, ensuring an adequate intake of omega-3 will be additional support in keeping your immune system boosted.
Omega-3 supports you (year-round!) by boosting your immune function, helping to fight off a range of challenges and diseases.
Omega-3 really is a silent protector you can count on.
1Calder, C. (2012). Omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids and inflammatory processes: nutrition or pharmacology? British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology. 1365-2125.2012.04374
2Asher, A et al, 2021. Blood omega-3 fatty acids and death from COVID-19: A pilot study. Prostaglandins, Leukotrienes and Essential Fatty Acids. 166 (2021) 102250.
3Ramírez-Santana, M.;Zapata Barra, R.; Ñunque González,M.; Müller, J.M.; Vásquez, J.E.;Ravera, F.; Lago, G.; Cañón, E.;Castañeda, D.; Pradenas, M. Inverse Association between Omega-3 Index and Severity of COVID-19: A Case–Control Study. Int. J. Environ.Res. Public Health 2022,19, 6445. https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph19116445
4Camacho-Muñoz et al, 2022. Omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids reverse the impact of western diets on regulatory T cell responses through averting ceramide-mediated pathways. Biochemical Pharmacology. 204 (2022) 115211.