EPA and DHA supplementation to reduce the effects of inflammaging


Inflammaging is a term used by scientists that links aging to inflammation; the main feature of inflammaging is an increase in the body’s proinflammatory status with advancing age. Like the immune response, inflammation has a protective function. Moderate inflammatory response is beneficial to the body, but when excessive, it becomes harmful. Persistent inflammation may cause inflammation-related diseases and causes a decline in the quality of life.

There are several theories that attempt to explain the mechanisms of inflammaging:

  • Depending on the theory of stress, different kinds of stressors induce and maintain the chronic proinflammatory status in the body. An excessive stress response, as well as an accompanying high inflammatory response, leads to inflammaging.
  • According to the theory of oxidation-inflammation, oxidative stress leads to inflammaging.
  • The theory of cytokines says that an imbalance between pro-inflammatory and anti-inflammatory cytokines produces a low chronic proinflammatory status which can explain inflammaging.
  • The theory of DNA damage claims that sustained DNA damage, caused by exogenous and endogenous factors, which contributes to cellular senescence and aging process, cause local inflammation that eventually becomes systemic (that affects the body in general).
  • Depending on the theory of autophagy (a process that removes harmful substances in cells), in the process of aging, autophagic cleansing capacity declines gradually, and this leads to oxidative stress. During this process, the increase of the release of several cytokines causes an inflammatory reaction and accelerates aging.
  • Finally, according to the theory of stem cell aging, in the chronic inflammatory process, large amounts of inflammatory cytokines are secreted, which leads to a chronic low degree of inflammation in the environment of cells that inhibits the regenerative capacity of stem cells, producing stem cell aging.

All these theories have a common denominator: high levels of proinflammatory cytokines are characteristic of inflammaging.

Some studies have shown that supplementation with omega-3 fatty acids (EPA and DHA) lowers systemic levels of proinflammatory cytokines associated with inflammaging. Recently, some researchers from The Ohio State University have performed a study to test the effects of EPA+DHA supplementation on levels of proinflammatory cytokines in the blood of adults in middle to late adulthood. Those participants receiving EPA+DHA supplementation showed significantly greater reductions in blood levels of proinflammatory cytokines compared with those receiving placebo (an innocuous substance).

These outcomes show that EPA+DHA supplementation may be effective to reduce the harmful effects of inflammaging.


Tan A, Sullenbarger B, Prakash R, McDaniel JC. Supplementation with eicosapentaenoic acid and docosahexaenoic acid reduces high levels of circulating proinflammatory cytokines in aging adults: A randomized, controlled study. Prostaglandins Leukot Essent Fatty Acids. 2018;132:23-9.

Xia S, Zhang X, Zheng S, Khanabdali R, Kalionis B, Wu J, et al. An update on Inflammaging : mechanisms, prevention, and treatment. J Immunol Res. 2016;2016:8426874.



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