Mechanism of Action of Oral Omega-3 Fatty Acids
What Is Omega 3 Fatty Acids and How It Works?
Omegas-3s are among the types of Poly-Unsaturated Fatty Acids (PUFA). It is also commonly called “super unsaturated” as compared from omega-6s. Its main component is Alpha-linolenic Acid (ALA). Scientifically, it is called cis-w3,6,9-octadectrienoic acid. Other terms are 18:3w3, or 18:3n3, w3, and n3 fatty acids. The human body needs ALA for survival, but cannot manufacture it alone which makes it as an essential fatty acid (EFA). By increasing the intake of EPA and DHA (which have the most beneficial effects than ALA) it will lead to an increase of omega-3 fatty acids in tissue or cellular lipids and circulatory lipids. EPA or (eicosapentanoic acid), DHA or (docosahexanoic acid) and ALA or (alpha linolenic acid) are the principal omega-3 fatty acids. EPA and DHA are both derived from marine sources like cold water fatty fishes and shellfish while ALA comes from plants like flaxseed, soybean, walnut and canola.
Omega 3 Fatty Acids and Chronic Inflammation
The first important observation of the role of dietary intake of omega-3 acids in diseases due to chronic inflammation was derived from epidemiological studies. For example a population of Greenland Eskimos was compared with gender- and age-matched groups living in Denmark. The Eskimos lived almost exclusively on a daily diet of cold water fatty fish of various kinds, and therefore got more of omega-3 acids. Studies revealed they have low incidence of autoimmune disorders.
The American Heart Association’s dietary guidelines recommend that healthy adults eat at least two servings of fish per week, particularly fish such as mackerel, lake trout, herring, sardines, albacore tuna and salmon. Getting enough EPA and DHA from diet alone can be a little difficult, unless you really love eating a lot of fish. People who have elevated triglycerides may need as much as 2 to 4 grams of EPA and DHA per day, and the only reasonable method of getting this much EPA and DHA is by taking a fish oil supplement.
Leukotriene B4 is a potent “proinflammatory” mediator derived from omega 6 fatty acid metabolism. Leukotriene B4 or (LTB4) formation is an inducer of inflammation and a powerful inducer of leukocyte chemotaxis and adherence. Therefore, a decrease in LTB4 production would be considered a beneficial step in treatment of inflammation. Additionally, the 5:1 and 10:1 ratios produced a shift from the proinflammatory LTB4 to the “less inflammatory” leukotriene B5 or (LTB5) in both the skin and plasma. LTB5 is a weak inducer of inflammation and a weak chemotactic agent. Stimulation of LTB4 receptors on neutrophils is one of the primary steps in the cyclic cascade of neutrophil recruitment, chemotaxis and degranulation. Therefore, the presence or increase and newly synthesized LTB5 competitively reduce LTB4-induced neutrophil activation and thus diminished LTB4-mediated allergic or inflammatory conditions.
Balance of Omega-3 Fatty Acids and Omega- 6 Fatty Acids
Studies have shown that our diet contains too much or imbalance of omega-6 fatty acids. The optimal ratio of omega-6 fats to omega-3 fatty acids in early human history was about 1:1. Today, the American’s dietary ratio falls between 20:1 and 50:1. People will have to reduce the omega-6 fatty acids and increase the amount of omega-3 fatty acids taken in their diets. The average American fast and processed food diets contain excessive amounts of omega-6 and omega-9 fatty acids. Commercialized omega fat supplements in health food stores can also worsen your health, as it will increase only your omega-6 to omega-3 ratio. Oils which contain sunflower, corn, soy, safflower and canola must be avoided. These oils have high proportions of omega-6 fats. Therefore people should start using virgin olive oil, coconut oil, avocado oil and organic butter as alternative sources.
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Venkat, C., (2005). “Omega 3 Fatty Acids”. Phytochemicals and Chemoprevention. Retrieved October 21, 2008, from http://clltopics.org/