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Exclusive Online Expanded Version—The Essential in Fats: A Global Perspective for Healthy Skin Cells
By: Alexandra J. Zani
Posted: March 5, 2014, from the March 2014 issue of Skin Inc. magazine.
page 10 of 11
EFA metabolism for each omega family requires a sequenced conversion process initiating from the parent omega n-6 linoleic acid and n-3 alpha-linolenic acid. Each metabolic cascade is a result of an enzyme-prompted desaturation process to create and insert double bonds into fatty acid molecular chains. This process results with the elongation of the molecule that, in turn, changes its behavior and function. It is important to realize that both n-6 and n-3 compete for the same conversion pathway—delta-6 and delta 5. When there is an excess of n-6 unsaturated fatty acids, it becomes an inhibitor to the synthesis of the n-3 pathway and can lead to an imbalance.
Earlier studies by University of Minnesota pediatrician, A.E Hensen, MD, theorized that there may be a correlation between eczema and other skin disorders, and the relationship with EFA metabolism.12 For example, when the skin cannot convert n-6 linoleic acid through to the arachidonic acid pathway and its metabolites GLA to DGLA, it is due to two missing desaturation enzymes delta-6 and delta 5. Although there may be adequate linoleic acid in the diet, the actual problem arises with the missing enzymes that inhibit the conversion process from the parent n-6 linoleic. As a consequence, this inability does not promote entry of n-6 metabolites into the cell membrane required for the metabolism of ceramides. Known as a condition of fat malabsorption, impairment for linoleic metabolism can suggest a genetic mutation in the enzyme. The effects include immune response, inflammation, poor barrier function, rapid water loss, atopic dermatitis and eczema.12
An essential balance
Ratios of omegas-3 and-6, and all other life-giving nutrients were genetically established in early humans through their ability to adapt to their geographical location and local food sources. Indeed, the human diet has evolved considerably. The last group of changes transpired during the past 150 years, as to the type of consumed fat as well as decreased levels of vitamins C and E and other nutrients. The practice of hydrogenation and consumption of synthetic and overly processed food, as well as lifestyle habits in the industrialized world have greatly affected this nutritional landscape. These imbalances became a promoter for the pathogenesis of many diseases, such as cardiovascular, cancer, inflammatory and autoimmune diseases, diabetes and depression.12
Balanced ratios between n-6 and n-3 fatty acids result in a more positive effect for reducing the risk for diseases. Numerous health authorities agree that supplementation with omega-3 PUFA is of great benefit to individuals with inflammatory diseases, including maladies of the cardiovascular system, arthritis, Alzheimer’s, diabetes, asthma and periodontitis. In his findings with chronic diseases, Artemis P. Simopoulos, MD, reports that ratio requirements for omega-3 vary depending upon the health of an individual. Therapeutic doses of omega-3 are dependent on a particular disease and should be administered according to the degree and severity of a condition.
Recent studies with an Australian research group suggest that there may be a variation between women and men. Each sex requires n-3 EPA and DHA. Responses may differ, however, due to the hormonal distinctions between male and female, especially in tendencies for platelet aggregation (clumping). The bottom line is that everyone should be consuming ample amounts of omega-3. It is important to note that clients with thrombosis or who consume blood-thinners should consult with their medical practitioner prior to taking omega-3 supplements.13