A study found that fish oil increased immune system activity in elderly women who engaged in strength training. Published in the British Journal of Nutrition, the study divided 45 women with an average age of 64 into three groups: one group performed strength training exercises without fish oil for 90 days; the second group performed strength training exercises for 90 days while taking 2 grams of fish oil per day; and the final group took 2 grams of fish oil per day for 60 days, followed by 90 days of strength training while taking 2 grams of fish oil per day. After measuring several immune parameters in the participants before and after strength training and fish oil supplementation, the researchers discovered that:
Fish oil increased phagocytosis—a part of the immune system’s defensive response to foreign objects (including bacteria and viruses)—in both groups taking the supplement.
Fish oil also increased immune cell levels (lymphocytes) in the group taking fish oil for 150 days—both before and during strength training.
Strength training, by itself, did not improve any of the immune parameters measured in the study.
The findings are of potential importance since it is thought that immune function worsens with age, and fish oil may provide one way to counteract that in healthy older women. However, since the study was small, more research is needed to confirm these results.
Source: British Journal of Nutrition