Is Fish Oil Beneficial or Detrimental?

Is Fish Oil Beneficial or Detrimental?

nutrients for immune function series

This week, we continue with part 4 in my Nutrients for Immune Function Series on nutrition and its impact on immune function. We are talking about fish oil. If you missed the previous entries in this series, I would make sure you check them out! Part 1 is here. Part 2 here. And part 3 here.

This content is based on information hosted by the National Cancer Institute (NCI), called Cancer Prevention Through Immunomodulation: Does Diet Play a Role? You can listen to the entire presentation here (click “View this webinar” under the Meeting Materials heading).

Fish oil is known as a strong anti-inflammatory. It impacts both T-cell mediated immune system and inflammation. A high intake of fish oil can result in a significant reduction in inflammation, which is a beneficial result. However, it can also cause a reduction in T-cell mediated immune function, which is a detrimental result.

This detrimental, adverse effect of a reduction in T-cell mediated immune function appears to be due to an increased antioxidant requirement with fish consumption. To test whether antioxidant supplements taken along with a fish oil supplement might prevent this adverse effect, researchers gave vitamin E at three different doses to 30 free living subjects age 65 and older.

The subjects received 100 international units (IU), 200 IU or 400 IU of vitamin E per day along with fish oil (Omega-500 TM, providing 1.5 g EPA, 1 g DHA and 5 IU vitamin E per day).

When fish oil was given with 100 IU and 200 IU of vitamin E per day, there was not an adverse effect of reduction in T-cell mediated function. In fact, there is an enhancement in T-cell mediated function!

The conclusion of the research study was that if you want to prevent the adverse effect of fish oil on T-cell mediated function, you needs to take fish oil along with 100 to 200 IU of vitamin E. The relationship between fish oil and vitamin E is called nutrient-nutrient interaction. Nutrient-nutrient interaction can explain why some research shows a benefit with fish oil supplements and others show a detriment.

The Bottom Line:

In order to receive the full benefit of fish oil consumption, you should be sure to consume adequate vitamin E. The amount that research has shown to be effective is 100-200 IU per day. This amount can be pretty easily consumed in the diet. Check out the chart below from the National Institute of Health that shows food sources of vitamin E.

Food Sources of Vitamin E

After taking a look at this research, I’m going to make sure I consume fish along with adequate amounts of vitamin E. I plan to try a recipe for wheat germ crusted salmon. Check out the recipe here. In the comments section below, let me know how the recipe turns out for you and if you enjoy it!


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