The anti-inflammatory activity associated with fish oil has been ascribed to the long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids (LC-PUFA), predominantly eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). Here we examined the anti-inflammatory effects of two DHA-rich algal oils, which contain little EPA, and determined the contribution of the constituent fatty acids, particularly DHA and docosapentaenoic acid (DPAn-6).

In vitro, lipopolysaccharide (LPS)-stimulated Interleukin-1 beta (IL-1beta) and Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha (TNF-alpha) secretion in human peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMC) was inhibited with apparent relative potencies of DPAn-6 (most potent) > DHA > EPA. In addition, DPAn-6 decreased intracellular levels of cyclooxygenase-2 (COX-2) and was a potent inhibitor of pro-inflammatory prostaglandin E2 (PGE2) production.

DHA/DPAn-6-rich DHA-S (DHA-S) algal oil was more effective at reducing edema in rats than DHA-rich DHA-T (DHA-T), suggesting that DPAn-6 has anti-inflammatory properties.

Further in vivo analyses demonstrated that feeding DPAn-6 alone, provided as an ethyl ester, reduced paw edema to an extent approaching that of indomethacin and enhanced the anti-inflammatory activity of DHA when given in combination.

Together, these results demonstrate that DPAn-6 has anti-inflammatory activity and enhances the effect of DHA in vitro and in vivo. Thus, DHA-S algal oil may have potential for use in anti-inflammatory applications.