|Sarah McGowan-Freije, NatureCity author & contributor|
Our immune system gets weaker as we age, making mature adults more vulnerable to infectious, chronic degenerative, autoimmune and malignant disease. A recent study has found that a combination of fish oil and strength training may help mature adults boost their immunity.
Participants in the study included 45 women with an average age of 64. They were assigned to one of three groups: strength training alone for 90 days, strength training with 2 g of fish oil daily for 90 days, or 2 g fish oil for 60 days followed by strength training and fish oil for 90 days. The fish oil contained 180 g EPA and 120 g DHA per kilogram. The strength training occurred three times per week and included floor and upright hip, leg, knee, and foot exercises.
A number of innate and adaptive immune parameters were assessed at baseline, before training and after training.
Strength training alone produced no changes in the immune system. On the other hand, both groups taking the fish oil experienced significant improvements in two markers used to asses immune system function.
The first was Cytokine IL-2, which is a protein that regulates the activities of the white blood cells that are responsible for immunity. Cytokine IL-2 production was increased by 80% with the fish oil supplementation, and 85% with supplementation plus exercise.
The second was IFN-g, a cytokine that is critical for innate and adaptive immunity against viral and some bacterial and protozoal infections. IFN-g was increased by 60% with fish oil and 88% when the fish oil was combined with exercise.
What’s more, fish oil supplementation helped to boost the immune system by increasing white blood cell function, and increasing the number of CD4r and CD8r lymphocytes and lymphocyte cytokines. CD4r and CD8r lymphocytes fight against infections and lymphocyte cytokines are proteins responsible for cell signaling in the immune system
Researchers from Paraná Federal University and the Pequeno Principe Research Institute in Brazil conducted the study. It was published online ahead of print on June 10, 2015, in the British Journal of Nutrition.
Fish oil has also been linked to numerous other health benefits, including combating diabetes, lowering cholesterol, improving vision, reducing the risk of dementia and relieving depression.
If you’re looking to increase your fish oil intake, try adding darker fish, such as salmon or tuna, to your diet. If you don’t like the taste of fish or are just finding it hard to work it into your meal plans, consider taking a high quality supplement. Make sure your supplement is tested for purity and potency.