Discover the benefits of Essential Fatty Acids
Thursday, April 23rd 2009
Discover the benefits of Essential Fatty Acids
The study of lipids is the most striking area of research today that can improve patient outcomes. Understanding the critical balance of omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids through supplementation is vital to restoring vibrant life into the lipid membrane and rejuvenating the patient. Click here to view the Omega 3 supplement we recommend for you.
Assessing the stability of the cell membrane through the examination of red cell lipids leads the clinician into a wide realm of metabolic strategies to influence the health of the patient. Lipids evolve into hormones called prostaglandins, immune components, and myelin as well as the bilipid membrane of every cell in the body. There is virtually no system of the body that does not require attenuation of specific fatty acid substrates and coenzymes to maintain health and repair of bodily tissues. The human cell membrane cannot be created nor its function controlled without respect to lipid substrate, yet fatty acid metabolism has been poorly delineated and often simply ignored in treatment protocols.
Exploration of lipid metabolism brings a striking new tool that unlocks some of the complexities of disease, as lipid imbalance and deficiency have an intimate link to the endocrine, hepatic, renal, CNS/Blood-Brain Barrier/Brain, gastrointestinal, pulmonary, musculoskeletal and cardiovascular systems as well as exquisite capacity to impact health.
The membrane of every cell and organelle is a lipid envelope that encases and protects the internal working cellular components. The bilipid layer is far more than isolation and protection, for linked and interlocked within the membrane are literally thousands of proteins (peptides) large and small that form the windows and doors of the cell.
These mucopolypeptides form the gates for ingress and egress but also provide the multitudinous array of receptors that trigger not only access but create the vast intercellular communication and information system through their prostaglandin regulatory activity. Prostaglandins may have evolved to be the basic control mechanism that permitted metazoa agglomeration (which is principally what we are, a vast agglomeration of cells) since emerging from the primordial sea millions of years ago.
Thus the mere thought of multicellular activity, and especially the evolution of humankind is, at our present level of knowledge, not possible without essential fatty acids, which are the precursors to the regulatory prostaglandins, which provide the communication and control absolutely necessary for a group of cells to stay together. Before one can advance beyond unizoa or single cell organisms into multi-cell metazoa there must be both communication and eventually a means of regulation. This is the marvelous, magical world of the prostaglandins (PGs), the "local hormones" that control all cell-to-cell interactions without which there is no complex life form.
The explosion of fatty acid studies appearing in medical research have led us into a new era in our approach to resolving disease, however, the focus of medical lipid manipulation has led to a great deal of confusion as pharmaceutical companies often dictate individual fatty acids as drugs rather than essential nutrients. As we begin to unfold the incredible complexity of lipid metabolism in the human body we are forced to acknowledge that lipid individuality must be respected if we are to achieve positive medical outcomes as we approach illness.
To begin we must first understand the importance of maintaining a balance between omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids, which has only recently been brought into clearer focus. Shlomo Yehuda reported in 1986 that the optimum ratio of base lipids linoleic-omega-6 to alphalinolenic-omega-3 fatty acids was 4:1. [NOTE: Dr. Mercola recommends a 1:1 ratio]
Arachidonic (AA), the lead eicosanoid, must be stabilized first along with the other w6 EFAs before w3 fatty acids are introduced and balanced in the patient's supplementation regime. There exists a crucial balance between omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids in human lipid metabolism, which has only recently been brought into clearer focus as Yehuda's SR-3 (specific ratio of omega-6-LA to omega-3-ALA as 4:1).
This ratio of base lipids has been successfully utilized by clinicians for the past three years in the United States, Canada, South America, Europe and Australia in patients with a myriad of health problems. Most profound is the stabilization of health status in patients with MS, ALS, Autism, Epilepsy, Bipolar, Schizophrenia, Alzheimer's Disease, Parkinson's, Pervasive Developmental Delay, Fibromyalgia and CFIDS.
Conversely, clinicians are often met with poor patient outcomes when merely administering omega-3 lipids without first introducing omega-6 fatty acids, balancing the lower order of essential fatty acids (linoleic and alpha linolenic acid in a 4:1 ratio), stabilizing the structural lipids, increasing the fat content of the diet, stimulating the ß-oxidation of renegade fatty acids, flushing of the gall bladder/biliary tree, and supporting digestion of fats with bile salts/lipase.
To view the brain beyond its architecture as a biological orchestration of the physical and chemical constituents necessary for performance, we cannot begin to conceptualize without considering the importance of fatty acids, as the human brain is 60 percent lipid. Dendrites and synapses are up to 80 percent in lipid content. Although AA has been given a negative association, it is the most prominent essential fatty acid in the red cell and comprises 12 percent of the total brain and 15.5 percent of the body lipid content.
If AA is depleted by overdosing with marine or flax oil, establishing the balance of the essential fatty acids (EFAs) is profoundly impaired. Often both prostaglandin one and two series relating to omega-6 metabolism are compromised when flax and marine oils are overdosed or lipid intake is insufficient. When AA is suppressed due to overdosing of marine oil the control circuitry of the body is impaired as is clearly viewed in the patient's presentation.
Increases in Phospholipase A2 (PLA2) activity result in premature uncoupling of the EFAs from phospholipids in the cell membrane. Accelerated loss of EFA places the patient in a severely compromised position of inflammation, which results from the promiscuous release of AA in the presence of an over-expression of PLA2. Carbohydrate consumption must be restricted to control the insulin response and the subsequent loss of EFAs.
The phospholipids and their essential fatty acid components provide second messengers and signal mediators. In essence, phospholipids and their essential fatty acid components play a vital role in the cell signaling systems in the neuron. The functional behavior of neuronal membranes largely depends upon the ways in which individual phospholipids are aligned, interspersed with cholesterol, and associated with proteins. All neurotransmitters are wrapped up in phospholipid vesicles.
The release and uptake of the neurotransmitters depends upon the realignment of the phospholipid molecules. The nature of the phospholipid is a factor in determining how much neurotransmitter or metal ion will pass out of a vesicle or be taken back in. Phospholipid remodeling may be accomplished by supplying generous amounts of balanced lipids and catalysts via nutritional intervention and the use of intravenous Phospholipid Exchange.
Research focused on individual fatty acids, as the current interest in Docosahexaenoic Acid (DHA), erupted due to the availability of an algae-based (non-fishy) DHA available for infant formula. However, not revealed to the public were studies (Susan Carlson) of premature infants given algae-based DHA who developed necrotizing enterocolitis. Infant formula is now augmented with DHA and AA, however, other essential higher-order supplements are still missing as omega-6 gamma linolenic acid (GLA from primrose oil) and EPA (omega-3).
Supplementing one fatty acid, DHA, has failed even in its application to children with ADHD/ ADD, often negatively affecting their immune response and overstimulating the CNS. Children with hyperactivity are deficient in all essential fats, not exclusively DHA, and the administration of one fatty acid without a balance of EFAs is inappropriate for any medical disorder.
We have a new understanding of cellular organelle and microtubule function in regard to the role of fatty acids. Tremendous attention has been directed to the mitochondria with its bilipid cell layer membrane (energy-producing organelles), yet the most important organelle in regard to lipid synthesis is the peroxisome, a monolipid layer organelle. Peroxisomes, present in virtually all cells, but most prevalent in the liver and kidney, play a critical role in cellular lipid metabolism in the biosynthesis of fatty acids via ß-oxidation involving physiologically important substrates for VLCFAs, dicarboxylic fatty acids, prostaglandins, thromboxanes, leukotrienes, pristanic acid, DHCA, THCA, and xenobiotics.
Individuals with aging difficulties and immune, CNS and endocrine disorders often present with complex xenobiotics involving disturbances in the cytochrome P450 superfamily (hepatic detoxification), which parallels disturbances in peroxisomal function. The cytochrome P450s are responsible for the biotransformation of endogenous compounds including fatty acids, steroids, prostaglandins, leukotrienes and vitamins as well as the detoxification of exogenous compounds resulting in substantial alterations of P450s, as xenobiotics may turn off or greatly reduce the expression of constitutive isoenzymes.
Inappropriate use of antioxidants such as mega-dosing with Vitamin E (> 800 IU) will inhibit tumor shrinkage as beta oxidation is suppressed, thus potent antioxidants would be contraindicated in the buildup of very long chain fatty acids (VLCFAs) and therefore reduced cellular metabolism as in states of aging and toxicity. The administration of DHEA, pregnenolone, or thyroid hormones stimulates the ß-oxidation of VLCFAs, as would nutrients (riboflavin, pyruvate, manganese) as well as oxidative therapies that stimulate oxidation, prostaglandin synthesis and detoxification.
Patients presenting with low serum cholesterol often do not have a positive response with the administration of DHEA or growth hormone as their metabolism is diminished due to catabolism and/or dietary regimes that have failed to meet their basic nutritional requirements. The arbitrary use of DHEA or growth hormone will beta oxidize or burn not just VLCFAs but all the essential fatty acids as well. Antioxidants slow cellular metabolism and must remain in the proper balance with all the essential nutrients and substrates (lipids, protein) to maintain metabolic equilibrium.
Renegade fats such as VLCFAs that are over expressed, disrupt the membrane structure. There is a beautiful geometry to the membrane that is highly sensitive to the size of the lipid chains. The overall width of the fatty acid portion of the membrane is ~3 ½ nm, which must be maintained for stability. Saturated or monounsaturated fatty acids with a length of 16 or 18 carbons are preferred to permit the structure to maintain optimal horizontal fluidity. VLCFAs that range from 20 to 26 carbons force the parallel dimensions vertically.
There simply is not enough room. The distortion weakens the phosphate bonds that derive their strong attraction only as long as the phospholipids are parallel to each other on both sides of the membrane. The cell weakness is then expressed in leaky attraction to ion channels and receptors, which marginalize cell cytosol fluids and electrolytes with the only option as early cell death.
Genetic expression is the preferential individual propensity to code and produce certain proteins enzymes, hormones and peptides. How this expression degrades over time is in part individually determined, but also strongly influenced by lifestyle of which diet plays a crucial role. An optimum balance of fatty acids make up the dynamic membrane. The membrane of every living cell and organelle, including the nucleus that holds the DNA, is composed of two fatty acid tails facing each other.
This bilipid layer is so minute (3 nanometers) that it would take 10,000 membranes layered on top of each other to make up the thickness of a piece of paper. Yet the dynamics that occur within this tiny envelope with organelles prancing up and down the cytoskeleton microtubules is a microcosm that is a challenge for the human mind to envision. All cells must synthesize molecules and expel waste.
All cells must create, through gene expression, the proteins needed for cellular gates embedded in the membrane as ion channels and receptors. The ultimate control of how those peptides behave rests with the character of the membrane while the integrity of the membrane rests with the structural (oleic, stearic, palmitic) and essential lipids. In essence, the life of the cell is intimately tied to membrane health and the health of the entire organism. The membrane is everything.
Newly documented research delineates that targeted lipid manipulation can dramatically influence the human body. Medicine has been slow to acknowledge the crucial lipid requirements to address neurological degeneration often accompanying states of disease, yet now that data is emerging from the medical literature it is difficult to extrapolate and organize the data into meaningful therapeutic applications for use in a clinical setting.
Our database holds 10,000 red cell lipid analyses from 1997 to the present from Johns Hopkins Peroxisomal Diseases Laboratory, the gold standard laboratory in the United States. By organizing the research data and isolating individual fatty acids in red cells we can now examine the cellular integrity/structure, fluidity, the formation of renegade fats that impair membrane function, myelination status, and the intricate circuitry of the prostaglandins and for the first time lipid treatment protocols may be established due to a clearer view into red cell membrane dynamics.
Our clinical protocol at the Haverford Wellness Center in Havertown, PA and the Center for Wellness in Charlotte, NC is to initiate treatment with changing the patient's overall diet, addressing the lipid balance and especially the outer lipid leaflet of the cell membrane through fatty acid therapy and the addition of supplementation targeted toward healing the cell membrane.
By stabilizing lipid status with intravenous Phospholipid Exchange and oral EFA supplementation we have remarkable tools toward healing a myriad of disorders in both pediatric and adult populations, without side effects. Through isolating individual fatty acids and dimethyl acetyls in red cells we can now examine the cellular integrity/structure, fluidity, the formation of renegade fats that impair membrane function, myelination status, and the intricate circuitry of the prostaglandins. The systemic health of the individual patient may be reached and targeted nourishment utilized through evidence based intervention, which may yield positive patient outcome.
Healing the membrane is virtually healing the body, and healing the brain.
By Patricia Kane, Ph.D.
References available on request.
Footnote from Ideal Health:
Below are some of the Omega 3 Supplements that we stock:
Flax Boost Oil
Waihi Bush Flax Original
Fish Oil 1500mg - Odourless
Reflux Free Omega 3 Fish Oil
Reflux Free Salmon Oil
Essential Omega 3-6-9 Blend
Hi Strength Liquid Fish Oil
Coromega - Omega 3 fish oil
Efamol Evening Primrose Oil
Efamol Mother and Baby
Related health information can be found here:
Related articles can be found here:
Evening Primrose: "Cure-all" For the Skin
Efalex Studies Produce Overwhelming Evidence
Good News for Sufferers of Osteoarthritis
Essential Fatty Acids & Learning Disorders
Research Proven for the Heart
If you need help or advice, you are welcome to email our naturopathic team with your health question.
Disclaimer: The health information presented here has been written for the New Zealand health consumer. It is of a general nature and is only intended to provide a summary of the subjects covered. The information is not intended to be comprehensive or to provide medical advice to you. While all care has been taken to ensure the accuracy of the information, no responsibility or liability is accepted, and no person should act in reliance on any statement contained in the information provided. All health ailments should be treated by a qualified health professional.
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