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Type: Journal article
Title: Leukocyte numbers and function in subjects eating n-3 enriched foods: selective depression of natural killer cell levels
Author: Mukaro, V.
Costabile, M.
Murphy, K.
Hii, C.
Howe, P.
Ferrante, A.
Citation: Arthritis Research & Therapy, 2008; 10(3):R57-R67
Publisher: BioMed Central Ltd.
Issue Date: 2008
ISSN: 1478-6362
Statement of
Violet R Mukaro, Maurizio Costabile, Karen J Murphy, Charles S Hii, Peter R Howe and Antonio Ferrante
Abstract: Introduction While consumption of omega-3 long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids (n-3 LCPUFA) has been recommended for those at risk of inflammatory disease such as rheumatoid arthritis, the mechanism of their anti-inflammatory effect remains to be clearly defined, particularly in relation to the dose and type of n-3 LCPUFA. The objective of this study was to determine whether varying the levels of n-3 LCPUFA in erythrocyte membrane lipids, following dietary supplementation, is associated with altered numbers and function of circulating leukocytes conducive to protection against inflammation. Methods In a double-blind and placebo-controlled study, 44 healthy subjects aged 23 to 63 years consumed either standard or n-3 LCPUFA-enriched versions of typical processed foods, the latter allowing a target daily consumption of 1 gram n-3 LCPUFA. After six months, peripheral blood leukocyte and subpopulation proportions and numbers were assessed by flow cytometry. Leukocytes were also examined for lymphoproliferation and cytokine production, neutrophil chemotaxis, chemokinesis, bactericidal, adherence and iodination activity. Erythrocytes were analyzed for fatty-acid content. Results Erythrocyte n-3 LCPUFA levels were higher and absolute leukocyte and lymphocyte numbers were lower in subjects consuming n-3 enriched foods than in controls. There were no changes in the number of neutrophils, monocytes, T cells (CD3+), T-cell subsets (CD4+, CD8+) and B cells (CD19+). However, natural killer (NK) (CD3-CD16+CD56+) cell numbers were lower in n-3 supplemented subjects than in controls and were inversely related to the amount of eicosapentaenoic acid or docosahexaenoic acid in erythrocytes. No significant correlations were found with respect to lymphocyte lymphoproliferation and production of IFN-γ and IL-2, but lymphotoxin production was higher with greater n-3 LCPUFA membrane content. Similarly, neutrophil chemotaxis, chemokinesis, bactericidal activity and adherence did not vary with changes in erythrocyte n-3 LCPUFA levels, but the iodination reaction was reduced with higher n-3 LCPUFA content. Conclusion The data show that regular long-term consumption of n-3 enriched foods leads to lower numbers of NK cells and neutrophil iodination activity but higher lymphotoxin production by lymphocytes. These changes are consistent with decreased inflammatory reaction and tissue damage seen in patients with inflammatory disorders receiving n-3 LCPUFA supplementation.
Keywords: Killer Cells, Natural; Humans; Dietary Fats, Unsaturated; Fatty Acids, Omega-3; Lymphocyte Count; Immunosuppression; Double-Blind Method; Eating; Food, Fortified; Adult; Aged; Middle Aged
Rights: © 2008 Mukaro et al.; licensee BioMed Central Ltd. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.
RMID: 0020082916
DOI: 10.1186/ar2426
Appears in Collections:Paediatrics publications

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