Omega -3 Fatty Acid and Body Immunity
Omega -3 Fatty Acid and Body Immunity

Dr. Sanjay Agrawal

Leading Pharmaceutical consultant and editor-in chief of IJMToday

Omega−3 fatty acids, also called Omega-3 oils, ω−3 fatty acids or n−3 fatty acids, are polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) characterized by the presence of a double bond, three atoms away from the terminal methyl group in their chemical structure.Omega-3 fatty acids are found in foods, such as fish and flaxseed, and in dietary supplements, such as fish oil. Oils containing these fatty acids originate in plant sources and can be found in fish, fish products, seeds, nuts, green leafy vegetables, and beans.Omega-3 fatty acids are polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) with a double bond at the third carbon atom from the end of the carbon chain. The three types of omega-3 fatty acids involved in human physiology are α-linolenic acid (ALA) (found in plant oils), eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) (both commonly found in fish oil that originally come from microalgae that is further consumed by phytoplankton, a source of diet for fish). Omega-3 fatty acids play a critical role in metabolism and cellular function and they are available as daily supplements. On September 8, 2004, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration gave “qualified health claim” status to EPA and DHA omega-3 fatty acids. Therapeutic products containing omega-3 fatty acid and its derivatives for treatment of hypertriglyceridemia include Lovaza, Omtryg, Epanova, and Vascepa.

EPA and DHA have received more good evaluations from the European Food Safety Authority than any other vitamin. Nine health claims have been approved for use so far, including those related to disease prevention and children’s development and health. This is a testimony to the well-established advantages associated with EPA and DHA, especially given the stringent regulatory system under which the evaluations were done.

Pharmacodynamics:-Omega-3 fatty acids are used for triglycerides that get broken down into smaller fatty acid units. They act to reduce plasma triglyceride levels however increase the cholesterol levels and are thought to possess potent Antiarrhythmic effects. Polyunsaturated fatty acids including eicosapentaenoic and docosahexaenoic acid mediate important cellular function such as inhibition of platelet function, prolongation of bleeding time, anti-inflammatory effects and reduction of plasma fibrinogen. Polyunsaturated fatty acids are components of the phospholipids that form the structures of the cell membranes and also serve as energy source. They form eicosanoids which are important signalling molecules with wide-ranging functions in the body’s cardiovascular, pulmonary, immune and endocrine systems. DHA tends to exist in high concentrations in the retina, brain (via uptake by Mfsd2a as a transporter), and sperm.

Mechanism of action:-Omega-3 fatty acids mediate anti-inflammatory effects and increased levels of EPA or DHA has shown to decrease the levels of PGE2 and 4 series-LT. Eicosapentaenoic acids compete with constitutive levels of arachidonic acid in cell membranes for the same desaturation enzymes and produce 3-series prostaglandins and thromboxanes, and 5-series leukotrienes which have low pro-inflammatory potential. The alteration in leukotriene biosynthesis due to higher concentration of omega-3 fatty acids compared to arachidonic acid underlies the anti-inflammatory effects. EPA and DHA also give rise to resolvins and related lipid signalling molecules such as protectins via cyclooxygenase and lipoxygenase pathways, which have anti-inflammatory effects. They inhibit transendothelial migration of neutrophils and inhibit TNF and IL-1β production. Omega-3 fatty acids also decrease adhesion molecule expression on leukocytes and on endothelial cells and decrease intercellular adhesive interactions. Omega-3 (or n-3) polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) and their metabolites are natural ligands for peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor (PPAR) gamma that regulates    inflammatory gene expression and NFκB activation. PPAR alpha activation is also associated with induction of COX-2 expression. The role of EPA and DHA in reducing triglyceride levels include inhibition of acyl-CoA:1,2-diacylglycerol acyltransferase, increased mitochondrial and peroxisomal-beta-oxidation in the liver, decreased lipogenesis in the liver, and increased plasma lipoprotein lipase activity. They also may reduce triglyceride synthesis because they are poor substrates for the enzymes responsible for TG synthesis, and EPA and DHA inhibit esterification of other fatty acids.

 Metabolism:-ALA, DHA and EPA are metabolized and oxidized in the liver, which is the site of biosynthesis of n-3 fatty acid intermediates, synthesizing VLDL that transport fatty acids in the plasma to tissues. Major enzymes that generate lipid signalling molecules from EPA, DHA and ALA are lipoxygenases and cyclooxygenase.

The Importance of Omega-3 Fatty Acids in Immune Function

Omega-3’s clinical applications have been explored and debated for many years and they have become such an integral element of a healthy lifestyle that they are no longer optional. Despite this, there are periods of the year when people forget that omega-3 can help maintain the immune system, such as during the winter months.

Omega-3’s clinical applications for immunological diseases are numerous and studied for decades. The scientists analyzed research in-depth. They validated the impact of omega-3 fatty acids on immune system function. The effects of omega-3 fatty acids on macrophages, cytokines, neutrophils function, T cells (including T regulatory cells), B cells, dendritic cells, natural killer cells, mast cells, basophils, and eosinophils are all discussed in the review.

Omega-3 fatty acids, as a constituent of cellular membranes, can influence cellular membrane features such as membrane fluidity and complex assembly in lipid rafts. This isn’t shocking information in and of itself. However, omega-3 fatty acids and their derivatives have recently emerged as signaling molecules. This is assumed to be related to changes in cell signaling, cytokines, and pro-inflammatory mediators disrupting pro-inflammatory pathways.

Interestingly, dietary omega-3 fatty acids increase specialized immune functions in specific immune cell types, such as macrophage and neutrophils, phagocytosis or T-reg differentiation, implying that omega-3 fatty acids do not behave as general immune suppressors. As a result, ensuring omega-3 saturation is a year-round focus is essential for achieving optimal immune function.

The future of Omega and current conditions:

ISSFAL is an international academic society that represents the majority of researchers in lipids, health, and nutrition. Omega-3 fatty acids are polyunsaturated, and three types are involved in human physiology: alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), which is found in plant oils, eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), which are available  in marine oils and are the primary source of omega-3s in the diet.

As per research, it is believed that more authorized health claims for omega-3s will be seen in the future, but it will take time as the regulatory climate develops. Not only in Europe, but throughout the world, it differs from place to region. Claims aren’t always solely based on their research, and how that science is interpreted can vary. Getting these claims authorized is a long and challenging process. It is even believed that we will see an increase in the number of pure pharmaceutical applications approved over the next five to ten years. The pharma companies are heavily involved in research in this field, looking into omega-3s as first-line or adjuvant therapies across many therapeutic areas.

Over the last two decades, the omega-3 category has exploded in popularity. The market is worth an estimated $1.3 billion at the ingredient level and is growing globally. Researchers claim that this is due to the items’ solid and well-established science. After many years of research, there are now several well-established claims for these products, and the science is not only well-established, but it is also evolving.

Scientists argues that, unlike other nutrients, omega-3s saw a explode of scientific and academic activity 10 years ago, as well as a surge in commercial items before fading away. The research advances and new findings emerge every year, providing a boost to the market—perhaps by reinforcing the evidence in one area or opening a new one. As global expendable income rises, people will want to take advantage of these benefits, particularly in Asia; thus, as it is predicted, the market will continue to develop.

With few exceptions, omega-3 insufficiency is a worldwide issue. A few well-studied, well-known tiny populations worldwide consume a lot of dietary fish and have very high omega-3 indices. They are, however, in the minority. We’re seeing their levels drop as their diets alter and adopt a more Western diet.

Sea food esp, Fish oil, mostly a by-product, provides the great majority of omega-3s. The amount of fish oil used in supplements is a small percentage of total production, with a considerable rate deemed unsuitable for supplementation. The global population adds as an important causative factor to the insufficiency of the omega 3 oils leading to increased opportunities for development of alternative sources. Researchers predict that this will change. Increases in output and differences in processing and recovery techniques will result in a higher proportion of fish oil available for human consumption.

In the future, there will be new sources accessible that are more sustainable and have higher environmental credentials, such as algae oils, which are now well established. Several organizations are working towards the development of the Omega -3 fatty acid sources from single cell algae from various species. Genetic modification technologies have been used in the development of omega-3 from the yeast and other organism are future possibilities. Increased marine pollution, population expansion and overfishing concerning the fish oil manufacturing industry has generated as a boon to the growing land crops to produce omega 3 oils with the assistance of genetic engineering technology.  The continuous research in the field of biomedical engineering for development of these crops will prove to be beneficial economically, socially, and environmentally. As the acceptance of these crops by the industry and the consumers will be an essential aspect along the setting of health and safety standards by regulatory bodies. Exciting prospects of development of omega -3 oils from various other sources including whole grains, vegetable plant tissue, and extracted oil from the food ingredient will be open new avenues of research in field of omega -3 fatty acids.

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