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Omega-6 Fatty Acid Critical to Skin Health

Posted: May 12, 2010

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"Knocking out a gene that enables the body to make the delta-6-desaturase enzyme has led to some surprising discoveries. In this instance, we learned that arachidonic acid is essential for healthy skin function. This new understanding may have implications for treating the flaky, itchy skin that sometimes develops without an attributable cause in infants," he said.

Nakamura explained that our bodies make arachidonic acid from linoleic acid, an essential fatty acid that we must obtain through our diets. It is found mainly in vegetable oils.

Scientists have long attributed healthy skin function to linoleic acid, which is important because it provides the lipids that coat the outer layer of the skin, keeping the body from losing water and energy, which would retard growth, the scientist said.

But skin function seems to be more complicated than that. These itchy mice had plenty of linoleic acid. They just couldn't convert it to arachidonic acid because the gene to make the necessary enzyme had been knocked out, he noted.

Arachidonic acid is also essential to the production of prostaglandins, compounds that can lead to inflammatory reactions and are important to immune function. Common painkillers like aspirin and ibuprofen work by inhibiting the conversion of arachidonic acid to prostaglandins.