Omega-3 fatty acids play a role in immune system function. They are incorporated into the cell membrane of immune cells, as well as many other cells, and are metabolized to eicosanoids, a group of signalling molecules important for controlling levels of inflammation. Increased intake also increases the EPA and DHA content of immune cell membranes, mainly by displacing arachidonic acid (AA, an omega-6 fatty acid), and become the substrate for the enzymes that make eicosanoids. EPA- and DHA-derived eicosanoids are less potent inducers of inflammation (compared to those derived from AA ) and produce anti-inflammatory compounds that “turn off” the inflammatory response. EPA and DHA carried to areas of inflammation are metabolized to produce several types of mediators that result in the resolution of inflammation (resolvins, protectins, and maresins). EPA and DHA have an overall anti-inflammatory effect, as shown in a recently reviewed paper on DHA and inflammatory markers.
The Omega-3 Index measures the amount of EPA and DHA in the membranes of red blood cells as a percentage of total fatty acids, with a target of 8% or higher.
Breast Milk Contains Omega-3 Fatty Acids Important For Protecting Babies
Breast feeding is believed to be the best source of nutrition for newborns and it also contains immune cells, antibodies, and other factors that provide protection during infancy. Breastmilk also contains omega-3 fatty acids, including docosahexanoic acid (DHA), important for the infant’s developing immune system. The content of DHA in breastmilk is dependent on the mother’s diet. The Western diet is high in omega-6 fatty acids and relatively low in omega-3’s. In fact, it has been recommended that intake of DHA should be 200-300 mg per day during pregnancy and lactation to provide adequate DHA for the growing baby.
The current paper by Granot et al. investigated whether DHA supplementation during pregnancy and lactation affected immune cell numbers and function in babies breastfed up to 4 months of age.
The Study Design:
- 60 pregnant women 20-35 years old in at least their 3rd pregnancy were randomized to either the treatment or control group
- Treatment group received 400 mg of DHA each day in softgel capsules
- DHA supplements were taken daily from the first trimester through pregnancy and lactation up to 4 months after the baby was born
- Diet of all the mothers included at least 2 servings of fish per week
What Did They Find?
Although total lymphocyte numbers (T cells and B cells) did not change, the number of T cell subsets (discussed in a previous post) were affected by DHA supplements.
In the DHA-supplemented group:
- Numbers of CD8+ cytotoxic T cells were lower with a higher proportion of memory CD8+ (CD45RO+) T cells
- There was a higher ratio of CD4+/CD8+ T cells
- The number of naïve T cells (CD45RA+) was significantly higher
- IFN-gamma, an inflammatory cytokine, produced by CD4+ and CD8+ T cells was markedly lower
What Does This Mean?
A higher percentage of CD4+ naïve T cells with lower IFN-gamma production in both CD4+ and CD8+ T cells indicates lower levels of inflammation which limits tissue damage during infections. Memory CD8+ T cells play a role in fighting off viral infections and higher levels may improve that response.
This research suggests that DHA supplementation during pregnancy and breast feeding may result in an improved immune response of the infant.
Nutrients Work Together for Immune and Overall Health!
Could getting more of certain immune boosting nutrients help to decrease your levels of inflammation, and improve your immune response? Find out by testing your vitamin D, omega-3s, magnesium and other essential elements (including copper and zinc), as well as your inflammation levels, with the new Immune Boost home test kit offered by GrassrootsHealth. Measuring levels is the only way to know if you are supporting your immune system and whether additional changes should be made, with supplementation, dietary changes, or both.
Enroll now with the Full Immune Boost Panel (which includes tests for vitamin D, Omega-3 Index, magnesium, zinc, selenium, copper, and hsCRP), and get 10% off when you use coupon code BoostTen at checkout.
What Does it Take YOU to Get Your D to 40 ng/ml (100 nmol/L)?
Did you know your health could be greatly affected by making sure you have a vitamin D level of at least 40 ng/ml (100 nmol/L)? Help us help you.
STEP 1 – Do you know what your vitamin D level is? If not, be sure to test today to find out.
STEP 2 – Determine your target level. Are you at your target level? Experts recommend a level of at least 40-60 ng/ml (100-150 nmol/L).
STEP 3 – Need to boost your level? Use the D*calculator to see how much vitamin D it may take to reach your target. Opt for the Loading Dose for a quicker boost.
STEP 4 – Optimize how your body absorbs and utilizes vitamin D with co-nutrients and these simple steps.
STEP 5 – Re-Test! This is an important step to make sure you have reached your target level, and to ensure you are not taking too much! Re-testing after 3-4 months is recommended.
STEP 6 – Adjust, Repeat…
Give your immune system the nutrients it needs to support a healthy you and protect yourself from unnecessary diseases, especially COVID-19.
The first Randomized Controlled Trial on vitamin D and COVID-19 has shown a 96% lower risk of ICU admission for those receiving vitamin D (as 25(OH)D to quickly boost vitamin D blood levels) along with the standard treatment, compared to those receiving standard treatment alone.
These results support many previous observational studies showing a relationship between vitamin D levels and intake and COVID-19 severity.
GrassrootsHealth Nutrient Research Institute has launched the new Immune Boost project with the use of our myData-myAnswers nutrient health system that nearly 15,000 people are already using for their health. Specific markers that influence immune health are suggested for testing as part of this project including:
- Vitamin D
- Omega-3 Index
- Essential elements magnesium, selenium, and zinc
Our goal is to demonstrate how one can use the Nutrient Research Model established by Dr. Robert Heaney to show the effect of vitamin D serum levels of at least 40 ng/ml (100 nmol/L) on risk reduction for all ethnicities in the population. Status and intake of other nutrients will also be analyzed for any type of relationship to immune status and symptom severity. Join the project today!
Please let us know if you’re interested in helping sponsor this project.
Through GrassrootsHealth Nutrient Research Institute, you can also test your essential elements magnesium, copper, zinc and selenium, toxins such as lead, mercury and cadmium, as well as your omega-3 levels, inflammation levels and thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH) level. Find out your levels today! Log on to the test selection page (click the link below) to get your tests and see for yourself if your levels can be improved.
Make sure you track your results before and after, about every 6 months!
How can I track my nutrient intake and levels over time?
To help you track your supplement use and nutrient levels, GrassrootsHealth has created the Personal Health Nutrient Decision System called
For each specific supplement, you can track what days you take it, how much, and many other details. This will help you know your true supplemental intake and what patterns of use work for you to reach and maintain optimum nutrient levels. Check it out today!