Short-term infusion of a fish oil-based lipid emulsion modulates fatty acid status, but not immune function or (anti)oxidant balance: a randomized cross-over study

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Background and aims

Studies suggest clinical benefits of parenteral fish oil (FO), rich in n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs), over soyabean oil (SO), rich in n-6 PUFAs, in patients with pro-inflammatory conditions such as sepsis and trauma. Because the mechanisms behind these observations remain unclear, the present study explored the effects of intravenous infusion of FO and SO on fatty acid incorporation, immune functions and (anti)oxidant balance in healthy human volunteers.


Saline, a SO emulsion and a FO emulsion were administered for one hour on three consecutive days at a rate of 0·2 g/kg BW/h to eight subjects in a randomized cross-over design with a 3-week interval between treatments. Plasma phospholipid and peripheral blood mononuclear cell (PBMC) fatty acid compositions, and leucocyte counts and functions were assessed prior to the first infusion (T = 0, baseline) and 1 day (T = 4, early effects) and 8 days (T = 11, late effects) after the third infusion.


Fish oil infusion significantly increased n-3 PUFA proportions and decreased n-6 PUFA proportions in plasma phospholipids and PBMCs. There were no differences in immune functions or (anti)oxidant balance between treatments at any time.


The present lipid infusion protocol appears to be safe and well tolerated and provides significant incorporation of n-3 PUFAs into plasma phospholipids and PBMCs. In the absence of overt inflammation, no direct effects of FO were observed on immune function or (anti)oxidant balance. This model may be useful to evaluate effects of parenteral lipids in other settings, for example in individuals displaying an inflammatory state.

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