We have shown that the age-associated increase in prostaglandin E(2) production contributes to the decline in T cell-mediated function with age. Black currant seed oil (BCSO), rich in both gamma-linolenic (18:3n-6) and alpha-linolenic (18:3n-3) acids, has been shown to modulate membrane lipid composition and eicosanoid production.

Our objectives were to 1) test whether dietary supplementation with BCSO can improve the immune response of healthy elderly subjects, and 2) determine whether the altered immune response is mediated by a change in the factors closely associated with T cell activation.

A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled (soybean oil) study was conducted to examine the effect of 2 mo of BCSO supplementation on the immune response of 40 healthy subjects aged >/=65 y. In vivo immune function was determined by delayed-type hypersensitivity skin response. Peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs) were tested for in vitro immune response.

In subjects supplemented with BCSO, the total diameter of induration at 24 h and individual responses to tetanus toxoid and Trichophyton mentagrophytes were significantly higher than their baseline values. The change in response to tetanus toxoid was significantly different from that of the placebo group. The BCSO group showed a significant increase in proliferative response of PBMCs to the T cell mitogen phytohemagglutinin that was not significantly different from that observed in the placebo group. BCSO had no effect on concanavalin A-induced mitogenic response, interleukin 2 and -1beta production, and PBMC membrane fluidity. Prostaglandin E(2) production was significantly reduced in the BCSO-supplemented group, and this change was significantly different from that of the placebo group.

BCSO has a moderate immune-enhancing effect attributable to its ability to reduce prostaglandin E(2) production.

PMID: 10500023

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