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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 8 of 11

Each omega family resides at two separate addresses—n-3 and n-6. The parent of n-3 is alpha-linolenic acid and the parent of n-6 is linoleic acid. Each family member has a different name with specific responsibilities. There is a boundless interactive synergy between both families that play immense roles in cell function, immune response, and cell-to-cell communication.

For a greater understanding of these life-giving EFA mechanisms, you are invited to explore many of the citations at the end of this article. A goal for the skin care professional is to realize that there are variable means within the skin that can affect its biological function. The presence of both n-3 and n-6 is essential for proper synthesis within all PL-rich cell membranes. EFAs also ensure the transport of membrane bound enzymes.

A word about eicosanoids (prostaglandins)

N-3 and n-6 are precursors of fast-acting, short-lived hormone-like regulatory agents (metabolites) called eicosanoids (Greek eikosi = 20). Eicosanoid is a collective term for fatty acid derivatives formed from elongated n-3 and n-6. Also called prostaglandins (PGs), they are a family of potent mulit-actioned biological chemicals that reside in the lipids of cell membranes. There are three families of PGs: Series I and II formed in n-6, and Series III PGs formed by n-3. Named prostacyclins, prostaglandins, thromboxanes and leukotrienes, they are stored in cell membranes and synthesized when required. They can be activated through certain triggers—cytokines, growth factors and trauma. For example, they help reduce the production of cytokine messenger chemicals leading to excessive inflammation, and inhibit the activation of monocytes (white blood cells—part of the innate immune system). Eicosanoids help to maintain physiological equilibrium and homeostasis in the body.

Eicosatetraenoic acid:

  • Dietary precursor to eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and DHA;
  • Intermediate between stearidonic acid and EPA;
  • A mediator in cell-to-cell communication. Cells release EPA from their membranes to communicate and affect the behavior of other cells; and
  • Precursor to the Series III PGs and other eicosanoids (found in reen leafy vegetables, nuts, flax (linseed), canola, soybean oils, hemp seed, kiwi seed oil and camelina oil).

EFAs in inflammation

Inflammation is a normal cellular process, because it protects and assists with healing after a physical injury or infection. Chronic inflammation is a result of the body’s inability to repair damaged tissue and leads to prolonged infection. It involves a complex cascade of molecular and cellular signals that can result in pain, swelling, temperature and erythema. It acts as a catalyst for atherosclerosis, a leading cause of cardiovascular disease. Other inflammatory diseases include Crohn’s disease, celiac disease, rheumatoid arthritis, Alzheimer’s, diabetes and more.6