The study, published in the British Journal of Nutrition, looked at 45 women with a mean age of 64 years. The women were assigned to different groups: strength training for 90 days without food supplements, strength training for 90 days with 2 g fish oil per year or 2 g fish oil per day for 60 days, followed by strength training and fish oil for 90 days.
The training was done three times a week and included floor and upright hip, leg, knee and foot exercises. Various immune parameters were tested before supplementation as well as before and after training.
Age is said to deregulate the immune system and make older people more susceptible to infectious, chronically degenerative, autoimmune and malignant diseases. Physical activity and diet also play a role in weakening immune system responses. While light physical activity increases T cells, excessive exercise negatively affects the inflammatory response.
The researchers from the Federal University of Paraná and the research institute Pequeno Príncipe in Brazil stated: “The immune parameters improved in response to the supplementation with fish oil. Strength training alone, however, has not boosted the immune system. ”
Fish oil improved the immune system by increasing the function of white blood cell neutrophils, the proliferation of CD4þ and CD8þ lymphocytes, which fight infection, and the production of lymphocyte cytokines – important small proteins that carry signals from cells in the immune system – increased.
Neutrophil activity improved in response to the 2 g per day supplement.
The production of the cytokines IL-2 and IFN-g also changed. They increased by 80% and 60% after supplementation. After supplementation and exercise, they gained 85 and 88%, respectively.
“These increases highlight the modulatory effects of fish oil and exercise in the elderly, which are helpful in restoring immune balance,” they wrote.
The fish oil capsules contained 180 g EPA and 120 g DHA per kg.
Diet was monitored through a food diary one day before and after exercise to check that food intake had not changed.
The researchers said more research with a larger sample and better health screening is needed now.
Source: British Journal of Nutrition
Published online before going to press, DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/S0007114515001555
“Influence of Fish Oil Supplementation and Strength Training on Some Functional Aspects of Immune Cells in Healthy Older Women”
Authors: C. Lourdes Nahhas Rodacki, A. Luiz Felix Rodacki, I. Coelho, D. Pequito, M. Krause, S. Bonatto, K. Naliwaiko and L. Cláudio Fernandes