Immune modulatory effects of EPA and DHA are well described. However, these fatty acids must be effectively incorporated into cell membrane phospholipids to modify cell function.

To address the absence of human data regarding short-term incorporation, the present study investigated the incorporation of EPA and DHA into white blood cells (WBC) at different time points during 1 wk of supplementation with a medical food, which is high in protein and leucine and enriched with fish oil and specific oligosaccharides.

Additionally, the effects on ex vivo immune function were determined. In a single-arm, open label study, 12 healthy men and women consumed 2 × 200 mL of medical food providing 2.4 g EPA, 1.2 g DHA, 39.7 g protein (including 4.4 g L-leucine), and 5.6 g oligosaccharides daily. Blood samples were taken at d 0 (baseline), 1, 2, 4, and 7. Within 1 d of nutritional intervention, the percentage of EPA in phospholipids of WBC increased from 0.5% at baseline to 1.3% (P < 0.001). After 1 wk, the percentage of EPA 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.

Nutritional supplementation with a fish oil-enriched medical food significantly increased the percentage of EPA in phospholipids of WBC within 1 wk. Simultaneously, ex vivo immune responsiveness to LPS increased significantly.

These results hold promise for novel applications such as fast-acting nutritional interventions in cancer patients, which should be investigated in future studies.

PMID: 21430245

See following website for full manuscript.