Unsaturated Fatty Acids and Their Immunomodulatory Properties

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Oils are an essential part of the human diet and are primarily derived from plant (or sometimes fish) sources. Several of them exhibit anti-inflammatory properties. Specific diets, such as Mediterranean diet, that are high in ω-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) and ω-9 monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFAs) have even been shown to exert an overall positive impact on human health. One of the most widely used supplements in the developed world is fish oil, which contains high amounts of PUFAs docosahexaenoic and eicosapentaenoic acid. This review is focused on the natural sources of various polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fatty acids in the human diet, and their role as precursor molecules in immune signaling pathways. Consideration is also given to their role in CNS immunity. Recent findings from clinical trials utilizing various fatty acids or diets high in specific fatty acids are reviewed, along with the mechanisms through which fatty acids exert their anti-inflammatory properties. An overall understanding of diversity of polyunsaturated fatty acids and their role in several molecular signaling pathways is useful in formulating diets that reduce inflammation and increase longevity.

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