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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service


item Erickson, Kent
item Kelley, Darshan
item Hubbard, Neil

Submitted to: Handbook of Nutrition and Immunology
Publication Type: Book / Chapter
Publication Acceptance Date: 3/3/2004
Publication Date: 6/1/2004
Citation: Erickson, K.L., Kelley, D.S., Hubbard, N.E. Dietary fat and immunity in humans. Humana Press, Scientific and Medical Publishers, Handbook of Nutrition and Immunology. 2004 Chp.7:141152.

Interpretive Summary:

Technical Abstract: We have reviewed literature regarding the effects of n-3 fatty acids on human immune and inflammatory responses. N-3 fatty acids of 18 (ALA), 20 (EPA), and 22 (DHA) carbon chain length selectively decrease some lymphocyte, neutrophil and macrophage functions. The potencies and immune cell functions altered by these three fatty acids vary. Consumption of less than 6 g/d of ALA acid did not reduce immune and inflammatory responses, while the EPA and DHA are inhibitory even at 1-2 g/d. There are many similarities between the effects of these two fatty acids, yet they have some unique effects. Even when the same immune function or cytokine profiles were assessed after dietary fat manipulation, different and sometimes divergent results were reported by different investigators. These discrepancies result from the amount and duration of the fatty acid supplemented, fatty acid and antioxidant nutrient composition of the basal diet, age and health status of the subjects, experimental protocols used to evaluate immune cell functions. Adequate consumption of n-3 fatty acids may be beneficially used to prevent or delay the onset of several chronic human diseases, but excessive intake may weaken the immune system.

Last Modified: 06/26/2017
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