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Is Fish Oil Immunosuppressive?

Answered on September 12, 2014
Created March 14, 2010 at 2:47 PM

In Half a gram of fish oil per 10 lbs of bodyweight per day?! Melissa commented that "When I took fish oil in the winter I unfortunately learned of its immunosuppressive effects."

I recently learned that Cod Liver Oil has too much Vitamin A, so we switched to Carlson's Fish Oil. But is even that a bad idea? Is fish oil immunosuppressive only if it's CLO with Vitamin A? Is it immunosuppressive only if you take too much? Or should fish oil not be used at all? I could definitely benefit from a stronger immune system!

15d23403fb836f2b506f4f3ad2c03356

(1219)

on March 15, 2010
at 07:21 PM

Given the retinol/D3 ratio in most CLOs, it was most likely the vitamin a that boosted your immune system. Why not try plain D3, without the retinol?

E35e3d76547b18096a59c90029e7e107

(15613)

on March 14, 2010
at 06:37 PM

...To target Cod Liver Oil specifically: most people are worried about CLO because it will give you more vitamin A than vitamin D and you need to have the right ratios of those as well.

E35e3d76547b18096a59c90029e7e107

(15613)

on March 14, 2010
at 06:36 PM

Hi Louisa. That's an important question: more omega 6 relative to omega-3 produces more inflammation and more omega 3 relative to omega 6 reduces inflammation. You want a balance between having adequate inflammatory response (e.g. to fight off infections) without having too much, such that you suffer from conditions linked to too much inflammation (like cancer, obesity, arthritis). Most people have too much omega 6 and thus too much inflammation, but if you were to take too much omega 3 you would depress your inflammatory defences. You want roughly equal amounts omega3:6.

33b6c516904a967ef8ecb30f1dbd8cf2

(7073)

on March 14, 2010
at 05:58 PM

Hi David, could you explain this answer, sorry I don't follow it....sorry to sound dumb....is this in favour of CLO or against it, are you saying that we should expect some inflammation when we take CLO and that it is OK to take?

33b6c516904a967ef8ecb30f1dbd8cf2

(7073)

on March 14, 2010
at 05:57 PM

Hi David, could you explain this comment, sorry I don't follow it....sorry to sound dumb....is this in favour of CLO, are you saying that we should expect some inflammation and it is OK?

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E35e3d76547b18096a59c90029e7e107

(15613)

on March 14, 2010
at 03:52 PM

The main rationale for fish oil being immunosuppressive isn't about fish oil per se, it's about omega-3 being anti-inflammatory. Chronic inflammation is, of course, very bad indeed, but acute inflammation is integral to the immune system. There must be some reason why we evolved inflammatory responses and it presumably wasn't so our bodies could kill us!

33b6c516904a967ef8ecb30f1dbd8cf2

(7073)

on March 14, 2010
at 05:57 PM

Hi David, could you explain this comment, sorry I don't follow it....sorry to sound dumb....is this in favour of CLO, are you saying that we should expect some inflammation and it is OK?

E35e3d76547b18096a59c90029e7e107

(15613)

on March 14, 2010
at 06:37 PM

...To target Cod Liver Oil specifically: most people are worried about CLO because it will give you more vitamin A than vitamin D and you need to have the right ratios of those as well.

E35e3d76547b18096a59c90029e7e107

(15613)

on March 14, 2010
at 06:36 PM

Hi Louisa. That's an important question: more omega 6 relative to omega-3 produces more inflammation and more omega 3 relative to omega 6 reduces inflammation. You want a balance between having adequate inflammatory response (e.g. to fight off infections) without having too much, such that you suffer from conditions linked to too much inflammation (like cancer, obesity, arthritis). Most people have too much omega 6 and thus too much inflammation, but if you were to take too much omega 3 you would depress your inflammatory defences. You want roughly equal amounts omega3:6.

33b6c516904a967ef8ecb30f1dbd8cf2

(7073)

on March 14, 2010
at 05:58 PM

Hi David, could you explain this answer, sorry I don't follow it....sorry to sound dumb....is this in favour of CLO or against it, are you saying that we should expect some inflammation when we take CLO and that it is OK to take?

2
0637289bb4a0ab314d80fa4de627d395

(1015)

on March 14, 2010
at 03:24 PM

A quick search on PubMed says that the answer to your question is yes. I urge you to do the research and do the cost benefit analysis to see if it is worth it to you.

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/1833105

1
6426d61a13689f8f651164b10f121d64

(11488)

on March 14, 2010
at 06:31 PM

Whether something is beneficial (usually anti-inflammatory) or harmful (usually immunosuppressive) depends on the person, the situation and the dosage of the agent in question. I said "usually" because sometimes immunosuppression is good, eg. after an organ transplant. I don't believe the "dose-response curve" of fish oil has been accurately worked out. I believe that fish oil supplements are beneficial at some lowish dose if you don't eat much fish, and that the risks/harms outweigh the benefits at some higher dose. Dr. Harris recommends 1 to 2 tsp. of CLO per day if you don't eat fish, and you're eating supermarket meat ( http://www.paleonu.com/get-started/ ). This is about 1 to 2 grams of O3 PUFAs per day.

1
C8debab64e0631590cb54b7db86f08e5

(296)

on March 14, 2010
at 06:27 PM

At low doses, this isn't a big problem. In my opinion, the risk of chronic inflammatory disease (heart disease, stroke, cancer, neurodegenerative diseases, autoimmune diseases) outweighs the risk of infection. You can limit the fish oil to a gram or so per day and if you are able to drastically restrict your n-6 PUFAs. Remember inflammation and immunity are two sides to the same coin. The result makes perfect sense.

1
9d43f6873107e17ca4d1a5055aa7a2ad

on March 14, 2010
at 03:23 PM

To confuse everything, I switched out fish oil for fermented CLO. I figured the Vitamin D would help boost my immune system. Sure enough, I haven't gotten sick this cold season. I don't plan on sticking with the CLO after it warms up though.

15d23403fb836f2b506f4f3ad2c03356

(1219)

on March 15, 2010
at 07:21 PM

Given the retinol/D3 ratio in most CLOs, it was most likely the vitamin a that boosted your immune system. Why not try plain D3, without the retinol?

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