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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.

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Beneficial effects of n-3 PUFA on chronic airway inflammatory diseases
Anna Maria Giudettia,∗, Raffaele Cagnazzob
a Laboratory of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Department of Biological and Environmental Sciences and Technologies, University of Salento, Via Prov.le Lecce-Monteroni, 73100
Lecce, Italy
b Pneumo-Phthisiology Service USL, P.zza Bottazzi 1, 73100 Lecce, Italy
A.M. Giudetti, R. Cagnazzo / Prostaglandins & other Lipid Mediators 99 (2012) 57– 67
The anti-inflammatory effect of n-3 PUFA
derives from their ability to compete with arachidonic acid in the production of eicosanoids, thereby
decreasing the production of pro-inflammatory cytokines and reducing immune cell functions. Moreover,
n-3 PUFA can give rise to a series of pro-resolving mediators with anti-inflammatory actions, such as
resolvins and protectins. While most studies have reported n-3 PUFA to have beneficial effects on chronic
airway diseases, some have questioned the anti-inflammatory effects of n-3 PUFA in inflammatory airway
This paper summarizes the main mechanisms by which n-3 PUFA exert anti-inflammatory and proresolving
effects, focusing on their use in airway disorders with an inflammatory component
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