Fish Oil

Take fish oil after your workout this winter to protect yourself from the common cold and more

Research from the University of Aberdeen published in November’s edition of Brain Behaviour and Immunity has shown fish oil supplements can increase some aspects of immune function after your winter workout; just another weapon in the ever-expanding armoury of the fish oil supplement.

Your winter exercise regime could be the cause of that ever so frustrating ‘bug’ at work. In the hours after exercise immune function has been shown to be acutely suppressed. This is an issue for those who exercise regularly especially in groups, and over the winter months, as these will increase the chances of developing infection. With the average adult contracting two to five colds a year and the winter months being the season for this infection, a supplement that could reduce illness risk would of great benefit to the general population.

To this end Patrick Grey’s Aberdeen based group examined fish oil supplementation and post exercise immune risk. Two groups of 8 young males were randomly allocated, one supplemented with fish oil, and one control of olive oil. After one hour of exercise at 70% of their maximum: a reasonably tough exercise bout for the average Joe.

A significant increase of the chemical interleukin-2 (IL-2), an immune signalling molecule that regulates the activities of white blood cells and distinguishes between self-cells and foreign cells, was found. There was also an increase in the activity of natural killer cells (NKCs), which are able to destroy foreign cells including viruses and cancers. It has been suggested that IL-2 could regulate NKCs.

The implications of these findings have a large effect on athletes or those who are regularly active, often in teams or groups, increasing the risk of spreading infection. Athletes will work tirelessly to gain the smallest of advantages each day in training, advantages that will be counteracted if they contract infections, leaving them unable to train.

Upper respiratory tract infections (URTIs) are not only contracted frequently by athletes but are most common cause of GP visitation. The prevention of these would mean one less thing to worry about this festive season, with wider benefits for NHS funding and GPs busy schedules. The paper does not provide guidelines for supplementation however some experts already suggest two grams per day of fish oil for athletes training on a regular basis.

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