A viral message about margarine (seen in Is margarine "one molecule away from plastic"? ) claims

[Margarine] decreases immune response.

truthorfiction.com (no link - I'm not sure if the site is safe for Windows OSes) gives more detail and says that it is true

  1. Margarine decreases immune response-Truth! We found several references to this including an article by nutritionist Dr. Mary Enig that said that consuming trans fatty acids "Affects immune response by lowering effeciency of B cell response and increasing proliferation of T cells."

Wikipedia describes Mary Enig as a nutritionist and that "She has promoted skepticism towards the widely held view in the medical community that high saturated fat diets lead to heart disease".

I've heard from Ben Goldacre's book Bad Science that many nutrionists promote pseudoscientific theories.

As the claim in the viral email is a bit terse, I'll ask about the claim in the truthorfiction.com page: does eating trans fatty acids affect the immune response of humans?

1 Answer 1


Trans fatty acids do not affect cellular immune response but do stimulate immune cells to produce some cytokines involved in atherosclerosis.

Consumption of diets high in hydrogenated fat/trans fatty acids has been shown to have an adverse affect on lipoprotein profiles with respect to cardiovascular disease risk. Dietary fat and cholesterol play an important role in the regulation of immune and inflammatory responses shown to be involved in atherogenesis.

Production of IL-6 and TNF-α was significantly higher after consumption of stick margarine diet compared with soybean oil diet. IL-1β and TNF-α production correlated positively with ratios of total cholesterol to HDL cholesterol (r = 0.499, P < 0.001 and r = 0.291, P = 0.04, respectively). There was no significant difference in DTH (delayed type hipersensitivity) response, lymphocyte proliferation, or levels of IL-2 and PGE2 produced among three groups. Our results indicate that consumption of a diet high in hydrogenated fat does not adversely affect cellular immunity but increases production of inflammatory cytokines that have been associated with the pathophysiology of atherosclerosis.

Source: Han SN, Leka LS, Lichtenstein AH, Ausman LM, Schaefer EJ, Meydani SN. Effect of hydrogenated and saturated, relative to polyunsaturated, fat on immune and inflammatory responses of adults with moderate hypercholesterolemia. J Lipid Res. 2002 Mar;43(3):445-52.

  • So, does eating trans fatty acids affect immune response?
    – user5582
    Commented Jun 5, 2014 at 2:46
  • From the question: "Affects immune response by lowering effeciency of B cell response and increasing proliferation of T cells"
    – user5582
    Commented Jun 5, 2014 at 15:05
  • Where in your reference does it say that trans fatty acids do not affect cellular immune response?
    – user5582
    Commented Jun 11, 2014 at 16:14
  • Somehow it will leads to coronary heart disease, which is then make you sick anyway. Commented Aug 21, 2020 at 13:57

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