EPA/DHA Omega-3 Intake/Status in Relation to Immune Function and COVID

Professor Phil Calder from the UK , a global expert on nutritional strategies for the prevention and management of infectious and immune diseases, has recently published a hallmark review article entitled : 'Optimal Nutritional Status for a Well-Functioning Immune System Is an Important Factor to Protect against Viral Infections' (Calder, P. et al., Nutrients, 12: 1181 (2020)). He discusses the well-established roles that various nutrients play in supporting the immune system and combatting respiratory infections. Inadequate intakes of these key nutrients and a depleted body status leads to a reduced resistance to infections and an increased burden of disease.

Acute respiratory tract infections are a major cause of morbidity and mortality across the globe as confirmed by the recent pandemic of the coronavirus disease, COVID-19.

Dr. Calder particularly emphasized the important and complimentary role that the long-chain polyunsaturated omega-3 fatty acids, EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid), play in supporting the immune system. He concludes that supplementation with omega-3 fatty acids 'is a safe, effective, and low-cost strategy to help support an optimal immune function'.

Inflammation is a key player in the immune response as mediated by various pro-inflammatory components. When present at the site of inflammation, the omega-3 fatty acids (EPA and DHA) are converted to specific products which then function to resolve the inflammation support healing – including within the respiratory tract.

A recent review has concluded that ‘the use of EPA and DHA supplementation should be considered as both a supportive and prevention strategy in combatting COVID infection (Szabo, Z. et al., Front. Physiol., June 19 (2020)). The authors indicate that the US Dept. of Health and Human Services (National Institute of Health) have concluded that a daily intake of (EPA + DHA) up to 3000 mgs/day is considered safe. For COVID-19, other experts have advised intakes of 2000 mgs of (EPA+DHA) day. Daily intakes in the range of 2,000 to 3,000 mgs/day of (EPA+DHA) can be expected to provide for the Omega Score as measured via finger pricks and lipid/fatty acid analyses to reach the level of 10.0 or more. Such an Omega Score would place an individual into the low-risk zone for sudden cardiac death, early all-cause mortality, and premature age-related cognitive deterioration.