This site uses cookies to store information on your computer. Learn more x


Providing perspectives on recent research into vitamins and nutritionals


Seasonal Allergies and Omega-3: Omega-3 Long-chain Fatty Acid Intakes

By Michael McBurney

With spring come pollen and seasonal allergies. WebMD says that almost one out of every 4 struggle with allergies. If you live in the United States, today’s local and national allergy forecast will help set expectations as you head outdoors.

Our immune system protects us. And our immune system is also the cause of allergies. It produces immunoglobin E antibodies (IgE) that bind to mast cells, causing an allergic reaction as they release histamine and heparin. Van den Elsen and colleagues examined the effect of omega-6 vs omega-3 long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids (LCPUFA) on human mast cell responses to stimulants in vitro. The cells were incubated with arachidonic acid (AA), eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) or docosahexaenoic acid (DHA).

This study confirms the results of Park and colleagues demonstrating the pro-inflammatory nature of omega-3 fatty acids. Besides modifying the chemical structure of the LCPUFA metabolites, the cytokines generated from EPA and DHA elicit different effects on cell signaling pathways than AA. The result is that higher levels of omega-3 LCPUFA may reduce susceptibility to allergies.

In his review, Calder suggests that > 2g of EPA and DHA is needed daily to elicit anti-inflammatory actions. While more dose-response studies are needed to validate this recommendation, the Global Organization for EPA and DHA Omega-3 (GOED) website summarizes dietary recommendations from several countries and organizations. The reality is that current intakes of EPA plus DHA range from 130-150mg, far less than adequate.

To summarize, nutrients are not drugs. Drugs are used to mitigate or treat diseases. However, these studies show the benefits of good nutrition to support a healthy immune system. When it comes to dietary omega-3 and omega-6 LCPUFA, remember balance and moderation. -mm-


Van den Elsen LWJ, Nusse Y, Balvers M, Redegeid FA, Knol EF, Garssen J, Willemsen LEM. n-3 long-chain PUFA reduce allergy-related mediator release by human mast cells in vitro via inhibition of reactive oxygen species. 2013 Br J Nutr doi: 10.1017/S0007114512003959

Park B-K, Park S, Park J-B, Park MC, Min TS, Jin M. Omega-3 fatty acids suppress Th2-associated cytokine gene expressions and GATA transcription factors in mast cells. 2012 J Nutr Bioch doi: 10.1016/j.nutbio.2012.05.007.

Calder PC. Omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids and inflammatory processes: nutrition or pharmacology? 2013 Br J Clin Pharmacol doi:10.1111/j.1365-2125.2012.04374.x.