How the heck do fish oils work & what do EFAs do?!?
Once fish oil is consumed and enters the blood it becomes incorporated into every type of cell all over our bodies. Each of these cells have an outer membrane and this outer membrane contains phospholipid fat. Each of these phospholipid molecules contain two fatty acids. Many of these fatty acids are the lovely essential fatty acids we discussed last week. Mainly: AA, EPA or DGLA.
F is for fatty acid….part deux
How do Essential fatty acids work?
There are 4 key concepts which have helped these mean green health helping machines develop their cure all reputation:
1) Important cell membrane component EFAs are critical components in the cellular membranes of many organs. Some of those most affected by EFA imbalance are the brain, the heart, the digestive system and the skin. Once the fatty acids from fish oil make into the tiny membranes found all over our body, they are cleaved/cut out of their membranes so that they can be modified, metabolized and utilized for chemical reactions. After they are cleaved out of the phospholipid membrane and released as free fatty acids, EFAs are enzymatically metabolized and oxygenated and then further modified to yield hormone like molecules called eicosanoids. The first of these enzymes, Cyclooxygenase (COX) oxidizes and removes two C=C double bonds leading to the thomboxanes, prostaglandins and prostacyclins (TX, PG and PGI). These hormonal signalling molecules then modulate circulation, the thickness of your blood and the release of white blood cells and inflammatory mediators. The second enzyme: Lipoxygenase (LOX) generates leukotrienes whose main action is to narrow your blood vessles causing vasocontriction.
- The fluidity, flexibility and moldability of our cells
- The enzymatic reactions that occur inside and outside of our cells
- Protein structures and membrane receptors.
3) Genetic alterations Once they alter the structure and functioning of the cellular membrane omega-3s are able to alter intracellular signalling. They modify the genes involved in fat burning, glucose control, neural synpase formation, neurotransmitter release, hormone secretion and modify virtually every reaction in your body from the signal required to initiate a new muscle fiber growth to being able to remember the buy eggs at the grocery store.
Fish oil’s claim to fame! Decreased inflammation
The main benefit of fish oil is a reduction in chronic inflammation giving our cells a break from the overwhelming destructive inflammatory fire that’s been burning on and on due to toxicity, processed diets, environmental exposure and the chemical reactions required to run our beautiful magnificent human bodies.
When inflammation becomes chronic and is allowed to smolder un-opposed, the immune systems ceases to only fight and attack pathogens and invaders and begins to cause damage and break down to normal tissue. This chronic inflammation inappropriately activates the immune system against self cells and is at the foundation of auto-immune diseases like Rheumatoid arthritis, Crohn’s disease, Ulcerative colitis, and Psoriasis
- They compete with AA for membrane incorporation
- They modify the genes that initiate inflammation
- They actively resolve inflammation that’s already occuring
1. One of the principle ways omega-3s reduce inflammation is by directly competing with the omega-6 fatty acid arachidonic acid for membrane incorporation. EPA then competes for enzymatic activation by several ezymes, namely: COX and LOX enzymes which convert EFAs into prostaglandins (PG2/PG3), thromboxanes (TXA2/TXA3) and leukotrienes (LTK4/5) EPA then competes for enzymatic activation by COX & LOX enzymes. When eicosapentaenoic acid is metabolized by COX/LOX instead of AA, it produces a very different and much less inflammatory set of molecules then does AA.
- AA produces the proinflammatory hormone like molecules: Prostaglandin E(2) and leukotrieneB4–>These are potent molecules that recruit inflammatory cells and contributes greatly to tissue breakdown and the heat of inflammation
- EPA produces eicosanoids, with a different structure which are less potent and much less inflammatory Prostaglandin E3 and leukotriene B5
3. Finally, Resolution of inflammation has historically been viewed as a passive process, occurring as a result of the withdrawal of pro-inflammatory signals like leukotrienes and prostaglandins. Research over the last few years has determined that inflammation resolution is an active process. basically meaning the taking your omega-3s inhibits inflammation from starting in the first place and thennnnnnn helps turn off the inflammatory switch if its already been on & burning everything up. Stay tuned next week for part 3 of 3 which deals with which clinical diseases are prevented and treated by the anti-inflammatory essential fatty acids EPA, DHA and DGLA.