Holy mackerel! Fish oil boosts immune system too

A new study shows that DHA-rich fish oil activates white blood cells in mice, boosting their immune systems and offering further explanation of how the oil works and could possibly help immunosuppressed people.

DHA-rich fish oil might help boost the immune system. The stuff's widely believed to help reduce inflammation, but until now, scientists had, well, floundered for further explanations of its immune enhancing effects.

In a new study appearing in this month's Journal of Leukocyte Biology, scientists showed that fish oil enhanced white blood cell activity and could potentially boost the immune system. Before this study, fish oil had a fishy effect on the immune system. This study challenges the notion that fish oil is only immunosuppressive, according to a release.The discovery is important because it shows that fish oil doesn't necessarily reduce the overall immune response to work its anti-inflammatory magic.

"Fish oil may have immune enhancing properties that could benefit immunocompromised individuals," Jenifer Fenton, Ph.D., a researcher involved in the work from the Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition at Michigan State University in East Lansing, Michigan said in a release.

The research was conducted in mice, half of which were fed a diet supplemented with DHA-rich fish oil for five weeks. Scientists harvested cells from the mice, then grew cultures to study the activity of white blood cells. They found that the fishy mice had enhanced cell activation and antibody production, which can aid immune responses.

"This work confirms similar findings on fish oil and B cells from our lab, and moves us one step closer to understanding the immune enhancing properties of EPA and DHA," said S. Raza Shaikh, Ph.D., a researcher also involved in the work from the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at East Carolina University.

In addition to this promising life-enhancing potential for the immunosuppressed, fish oil also helps actress Judi Dench, 78, remember her lines, according to Theweek.com.

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