Current sensitivity about claims shouldn’t obscure immune support benefits of EPA, DHA, Wiley’s Finest asserts

By Hank Schultz

- Last updated on GMT

©Getty Images - batuhan toker
©Getty Images - batuhan toker

Related tags Omega-3s EPA and DHA immune function Immune health coronavirus

Finished goods manufacturer Wiley’s Finest maintains that the immune health benefits omega-3s shouldn’t get swept under the rug, even with the heightened sensitivity about antiviral claims during the pandemic crisis.

Wiley’s recently distributed a communication that extolled the long-recognized immune health support provided by EPA and DHA.  Wiley’s manufactures finished omega-3s supplements based on its own supply chain of oil from the Alaskan pollock fishery.

Don’t hide that immune support light under a bushel

Early on in the coronavirus crisis GOED (the Global Organization of EPA and DHA Omega-3s) put out an industry advisory that warned member companies from making COVID-19 claims​. When the advisory was issued in March GOED asserted that the science supports general immunity statements but does not necessarily hone on antiviral effects.  The advisory was issued at a time when ingredient marketers of all sorts were hopping on the COVID-19 claims bandwagon, FDA and FTC be damned.

But pushback from industry experts who believe there is a lot of good science backing the immune support benefits of omega-3s has led GOED to soften its stance somewhat in recent months​. In a conversation in May with NutraIngredients-USA editor in chief Stephen Daniells GOED director Ellen Schutt had this to say: 

We wanted to be very clear to make sure we were maintaining credibility as a category,” ​Schutt said. “Having said that, the omega-3s EPA and DHA are in every cell of the body, there is a plethora of studies around omega-3s, and it is important to know that omega-3s are a component of being healthy in general, so there are kind of two sides to that​."

More than just cardiovascular benefits

Wiley’s said that it’s time to recognize that an adequate intake of EPA and DHA isn’t just about  providing a prophylactic benefit in cardiovascular disease.  Rather, it’s about maintaining health in such a way that all of the body’s systems function at peak efficiency, including the immune system.

As essential nutrients, EPA and DHA supply the raw material, the source materials from which our body produces molecules necessary for our immune system to operate properly. For example, from EPA and DHA we produce compounds (e.g., prostaglandins, leukotrienes, resolvins) used to support healthy respiratory function, body temperature, blood pressure, heart rate, and resolve inflammation. Metabolites of EPA and DHA balance immune system modulators such as B-cells, cytokines, and lymphocytes. This is text-book definition of essential nutrition.  

 “EPA and DHA omega-3s are integral nutrients for healthy immune function," ​said Gretchen Vannice, Director of Nutrition Education and Research at Wiley Companies.

"I admit, we’ve been so focused on the well-documented benefits of omega-3s for heart and mental health, maternal and child health, even healthy vision, that we lose sight of the role of EPA and DHA as essential nutrients. While more is better, at its core, the greatest need for EPA and DHA is to support normal, healthy metabolism, lung function, immune response, and other life-sustaining functions.  The tragic reality is that most Americans fall far short of meeting their essential intake needs for EPA and DHA omega-3,” ​she added. 

Food alone proven to be insufficient

EPA and DHA are classified as essential fatty acids and so must be supplied via the diet.  Many health authorities advise to get these molecules by eating fatty fish, like wild caught salmon.  But almost no Americans follow a diet that would supply enough omega-3s from food alone, so supplementation is seen as necessary.

Recent data shows the vast majority of Americans consume 100 mg EPA and DHA per day; that’s 60% short of the global minimum intake recommendation of 250 mg per day. With renewed focus on immunology, scientists are now recommending more EPA and DHA omega-3 (2,000 mg/day and more) to replenish the chronic lack, fuel an immune system on high alert, and fortify heart health, brain and mental health, and healthy metabolism.   

Renowned omega-s expert Prof. Phillip Calder, PhD, of the University of Southampton in the UK said proper nutrition is the cornerstone of immune system performance.

“Getting nutrition right is vital for the immune system to function properly. Many nutrients are involved, including omega-3. EPA and DHA (Omega-3 from fish and from supplements) are important in controlling the activity of the immune system especially inflammation. It is unfortunate that many people do not get enough EPA and DHA in their diet,”​  Calder said.

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