Lipids

, Volume 38, Issue 4, pp 343–352 | Cite as

n−3 Polyunsaturated fatty acids and inflammation: From molecular biology to the clinic

Articles

Abstract

The immune system is involved in host defense against infectious agents, tumor cells, and environmental insults. Inflammation is an important component of the early immunologic response. Inappropriate or dysfunctional immune responses underlie acute and chronic inflammatory diseases. The n−6 PUFA arachidonic acid (AA) is the precursor of prostaglandins, leukotrienes, and related compounds that have important roles in inflammation and in the regulation of immunity. Feeding fish oil results in partial replacement of AA in cell membranes by EPA. This leads to decreased production of AA-derived mediators, through several mechanisms, including decreased availability of AA, competition for cyclooxygenase (COX) and lipoxygenase (LOX) enzymes, and decreased expression of COX-2 and 5-LOX. This alone is a potentially beneficial anti-inflammatory effect of n−3 FA. However, n−3 FA have a number of other effects that might occur down-stream of altered eicosanoid production or might be independent of this effect. For example, dietary fish oil results in suppressed production of proinflammatory cytokines and can modulate adhesion molecule expression. These effects occur at the level of altered gene expression. Fish oil feeding has been shown to ameliorate the symptoms of some animal models of autoimmune disease and to protect against the effects of endotoxin. Clinical studies have reported that oral fish oil supplementation has beneficial effects in rheumatoid arthritis and among some asthmatics, supporting the idea that the n−3 FA in fish oil are anti-inflammatory. There are indications that the inclusion of fish oil in enteral and parenteral formulae is beneficial to patients.

Abbreviations used

AA

arachidonic acid

COX

cyclooxygenase

FLAP

5-lipoxygenase activating protein

GM-CSF

granulocyte macrophage colony stimulating factor

HETE

hydroxyeicosatetraenoic acid

HPETE

hydroperoxyeicosatetraenoic acid

ICAM-1

intercellular adhesion molecule-1

IFN

interferon

IκB

inhibitory subunit of NFκB

IκK

IκB kinase

IL

interleukin

LOX

lipoxygenase

LPS

lipopolysaccharide

LI

leukotriene

MMP

matrix metalloproteinase

NFκB

nuclear factor κB

PG

prostaglandin

PPAR

peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor

SIRS

systemic inflammatory response syndrome

TIMP

tissue inhibitor of metalloproteinase

TNF

tumor necrosis factor

TX

thromboxane

VCAM-1

vascular cell adhesion molecule-1

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Copyright information

© AOCS Press 2003

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institute of Human Nutrition, School of MedicineUniversity of SouthamptonSouthamptonUK

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