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Flu and Fish Oil

Friday, October 13, 2017

It's that time again and flu shots are still controversial. At best, these vaccines are designed to protect us from a few viruses, which may or may not be the ones causing this or any given season's medical challenges.

We always recommend discussing flu shots with your physician.


A study published in Cancer Immunology Immunotherapy looked at myeloid-derived suppressor cells (MDSCs) that have now been identified as a type of immunosuppressive induced in viral infection, malignancies, excessive weight, and autoimmune disruptions. 

These immune cells originate from bone marrow stem cells, as do macrophages and neutrophils, but MDSCs are suggested to inhibit the activity of thyroid-produced T cells. 

This study shows that dietary intake of excessive omega-3 eicosapentaenoic (EPA) fatty acid suppresses CD8 T cell activation and proliferation in vivo via elevated levels of MDSCs. CD8 T cell lymphocytes secrete large amounts of gamma-interferon, which is one of the body’s major defenses against viruses.


CD8 T cells recognize antigens on the surface of virus-infected cells and bind to the infected cells and kill them. This is particularly important during viral flu and cold season. These cells also have anti-tumor activity.


Mice studies have shown that two-week feedings of fish oil significantly decreases the numbers of CD8 T cells in the lungs of influenza virus-infected mice, resulting in a high morbidity and mortality. The data from this study demonstrate that fish oils effect on T cell activation may be due to the expansion of MDSCs that suppress T cells via a direct cell-to-cell contact.


Excessive EPA fatty acid has also been suggested to interfere with the production of natural killer cells (NK cells), a type of cytotoxic lymphocyte critical to the innate immune system with the ability to react immediately with no prior exposure to the pathogen. NK cells provide rapid responses to virally infected cells.


NK cells' ability to recognize stressed cells in the absence of antibodies produces a much faster immune reaction to new viruses that seem to be immune to many of the currently used therapies.


Ellen Troyer, with Spencer Thornton, MD, David Amess and the Biosyntrx staff