Saturday, April 2, 2011

Something Fishy: Leucine-Rich Protein + Fish Oil Supplement Boosts White Blood Cell EPA Content and Immune Response

Regular readers of the SuppVersity, as well as people who religiously follow Carl Lenore's Super Human Radio and happened to listen to my 1st appearance on the show, will know that I am generally skeptic about the usefulness of unwarranted high dose (>1-2g of combined EPA + DHA) fish oil supplementation. This is not because I think fish oil is poison, but rather out of my awareness that its pharmacological effects have more similarity to those of a drug than to those of a "common food" (including possible side effects).

Now, a group of scientists from the Netherlands and the United Kingdom published the results of a study (Faber. 2011) which found another interesting stone from the fragmented mosaic our current understanding of the effects and nutritional interactions of fish oil, in general, and EPA, in particular, resembles. While the aim of the study, which was to quantify the incorporation of EPA and DHA into white blood cells, was nothing new, the nutritional supplement they used for this purpose, a mixture of 2.4 g EPA, 1.2 g DHA, 39.7 g protein (including 4.4 g L-leucine), and 5.6 g oligosaccharides was innovative and the results were astounding. After 1 week of 2x200ml of what the scientists label a "medical food" (beware there is probably somebody patenting the formula already ;-), ...
[... from 0.5% at baseline] the percentage of EPA [in white blood cell phospholipids] rose to 2.8% (P < 0.001). Additionally, the production of proinflammatory cytokines in LPS-stimulated whole blood cultures was significantly increased within 1 wk.
It appears that the addition of protein has a positive influence on the incorporation of EPA into white blood cells, which, in turn, boosts the natural immune response to lipopolysaccharides stimulation. This, however, brings me back to my initial comment about "pharmacological" effects of fish oil: While for a cancer patient with lowered immunity, the consumption of the "medical food" or, what I would consider equivalent, a combination of whey + fish oil, would unquestionably be beneficial - but what about someone with allergies or even auto-immune issues? I assume you would agree that to further boost an immune system that is already running havoc does not seem to be a good idea!? In the end, and here I do not mind repeating myself, it again all comes back to considering who you are and what your current medical and nutritional condition is, before you start taking a supplement of which the whole Internet community seems to believe that its the healthiest (if not the only healthy) fat on earth...