Health Benefits Associated With Omega 3s & Phospholipids

Posted on 09. Nov, 2012 by in General Health Concerns

Why the Long Chain Omega3 PUFAs Can Be Acquired Most Effectively from Phospholipids? 

The long chain Omega3 PUFAs may get incorporated into triglycerides, cholesterol esters and phospholipids or distributed in form of free fatty acids. A recent study has revealed that phospholipids act as a more useful vehicle for Omega3 PUFAs when it comes to absorption and digestion of fatty acids carried by them.

Being the biggest contributor of fats as a dietary source of energy, triglycerides have always been the most researched fat type, especially in case of studies on absorption and digestion. Phospholipids become relevant particularly in long chain Omega3 PUFAs supplementation; the reason behind this is: it has been found that high levels of DHA and EPA remains bound to the phospholipids than the proportions that remain bound to triglycerides.

Phospholipids and triglycerides are different from each other. Unlike triglycerides, the phospholipids come with negatively charged phosphate heads. Supported by this hydrophilic group, the phospholipids can transfer and remain associated with water; fatty acids and triglycerides, on the other hand, cannot perform any such action.

The hydrophobic nature of fatty acid tails makes phospholipid molecules amphipathic. This helps the phospholipids to form micelles independently for encapsulating fatty acids in an aqueous solution. All the factors discussed above are of extreme importance; this is because they make phospholipid-incorporated Omega3 PUFAs more bioavailable compared to supplements with free fatty acids or triglyceride-incorporated Omega3 PUFAs.

Other than allowing human body to absorb a large portion of essential fatty acids, phospholipid-incorporated Omega3 PUFAs also ensure that their absorption, emulsification and digestion does not depend fully on bile produced by the gall bladder and liver and pancreatic enzymes. Greater bioefficiency of these supplements make them beneficial for individuals having an underlying condition or taking medications resulting in cholestasis or fat malabsorption (these patients might also face difficulty in absorbing fat soluble vitamins and essential fatty acids through the regular pathway).

Infant formulas that contain phospholipids as their principal constituent are known for allowing better absorption of the long chain Omega3 PUFAs compared to breast milk and triglyceride-based baby formulas.

Synthetic phospholipids with DHA and EPA in sn-2 position are produced commercially backed by studies to accumulate evidences supporting use of phospholipids. If you check Tripernol’s lipid profile, you will find that the quantity of natural formed EPA and DHA in the product is much higher compared to the amount synthesized.

Key Points:

  • The levels of DHA and EPA bound to phospholipids are more than the levels of DHA and EPA bound to triglycerides.
  • Recently obtained scientific evidences suggest that phospholipids act as the most useful vehicle for Omega3 PUFAs.
  • As phospholipids dissolve when added to aqueous solutions, we can absorb and digest them more easily and efficiently compared to other lipids.
  • The amount of fatty acids absorbed from phospholipid supplements is always more than the amount absorbed from supplement with higher levels of free fatty acids or triglycerides.
  • Consuming phospholipid is beneficial for the infants; this is because phospholipids increase absorption of Omega3 PUFAs in infants, which in turn induces healthy growth.

The Omega6/Omega3 Ratio Theory: What Makes Long Chain Omega3 PUFA Supplementation Essential for Health?

Omega3 PUFA supplementation is primarily known for its ability of bringing back the right balance between Omega6 and Omega3 PUFAs in our body. People in the Western world mostly consume a diet that does not contain enough Omega3 PUFAs; this eventually results in an Omega6/Omega3 imbalance within the phospholipids of cell membranes.

During the ancient times, our ancestors who were primarily hunters used to consume a diet that contained Omega6 and Omea3 PUFAs in a ratio of 1:1. However, latest statistics suggest that the meals we consume nowadays contain these two essential fatty acids in a ratio of 15:1. This has happened in spite of the fact that genetic composition of human beings has undergone insignificant changes during the past 10,000 years.

The most significant change that has occurred during the last century is a noteworthy increase in consumption of vegetable oils and grains. Rice, maize and wheat cover around 75 percent of the total grain production in this world. This statistic has influenced our dietary habits significantly. We have started to consume more and more grains and often miss out on including foods rich in Omega3 PUFAs in our diet.

Long chain Omega3 PUFAs along with their metabolites offer complementary actions to mediators produced by Omega6 PUFAs, which is primarily arachidonic acid (20:4). Evidences obtained from animal, ex-vivo and in-vitro studies reveal that there may be a link between Omega3 PUFA’s role as signalling molecules and their beneficial effects.  Omega3 PUFA’s ability of acting as signalling molecules helps them to act as effective anti-inflammatory agents.

Consuming adequate amount of long chain Omega3 PUFAs is known for increasing the level of phospholipids within cell membranes. In addition to that, increased consumption of this essential fatty acid also alters regulation and production of eicosanoids, expression of adhesion molecule, leukocyte chemotaxis, inflection in production of reactive oxygen species and production of inflammatory cytokine. The Omega3 PUFA type that gets accumulated within our tissues (particularly within our central nervous system) most abundantly is DHA.

The significant functions of DHA include production of mediators known as Dseries resolvins, neuroprotectins, docosatrienes and neurofurans. On the other hand, EPA produces alternative Eseries resolvins and is extremely essential for healthy production of endocannabinoids and eicosanoids.

DHA and EPA also play very significant roles in infant and foetal development. Neuro-developmental functions in infants are hugely dependent on the levels of Omega3 PUFAs in their body. Omega3 PUFAs are mainly important for healthy development of an infant’s visual and neurological systems. You must know that there are some health benefits that breast milk can offer and formula milks cannot. Studies have revealed that this happens primarily due to the absence of quality long chain Omega3 PUFAs in most formula milks.

Experts describe eicosanoids as the main link between inflammation and long chain PUFAs. Eicosanoids are basically the main factors regulating the duration and intensity of inflammation; eicosanoid-synthesis occurs from the PUFA-rich phospholipids within the inflammatory cell membranes. Usually, the inflammatory cells possess more Omega6 PUFAs than Omega3 PUFAs. The inflammatory cells mostly contain Omega6 PUFAs in form of arachidonic acid, which is the main substrate for the process of inflammatory eicosanoid creation.

Here, the inflammatory eicosanoid creation occurs by means of biochemical pathways controlled by two enzymes, COX or cycloxygenase and LOX and lipoxygenase. The eicosanoid producing capacity of inflammatory cells is influenced strongly by consumption and absorption of PUFA. It has been found that regular intake of an arachidonic acid supplement helps in augmenting synthesis of eicosanoid derivatives within the mononuclear cells stimulated by endotoxin; it can be presumed that this is the effect of augmented membrane incorporation.

A reduction in the arachidonic acid levels in cell membranes might cause a significant decrease in the production of derivative eicosanoids like 5-hydroxyeicosatetraenoic acid, LTE4, Thromboxane B2, PGE2 and LTB4. An increase in the levels of long chain Omega3 PUFAs in human body also means that production of eicosanoids derived from arachidonic acid is inhibited directly. EPA acts as a perfect substrate for the LOX and COX enzyme pathways. On the other hand, DHA contributes to the activity primarily through retro-conversion to EPA.

Some anti-inflammatory and immunomodulatory effects of the long chain Omega3 PUFA supplements are proved through extensive evidences. The evidences are obtained primarily from animal, in vitro and ex vivo studies. The in-vivo clinical trials have however failed to produce consistent results. You will come across a number of literature reviews that have pointed out the potential mistakes in the method of interpreting the results and the experimental designs used to date.

The biggest limitation that the clinical trials conducted to date come with is lack of sufficient control on the subjects’ background diet. The anti-inflammatory effects of Omega3 PUFA supplementation can easily get overshadowed if the subject keeps on consuming food items that have relatively high levels of Omega6 PUFA.

During animal studies, the effects of Omega3 PUFA were noticed much more distinctly as the subjects were made to follow a strict diet. The experimental group was given a diet absolutely devoid of Omega6 PUFA and the control group was given Omega3 PUFA. However, to date no diet intervention based on the phospholipids containing essential fatty acids has been carried out.

The issue becomes even more relevant when it is found that the majority of the tests and trials written about in a recently published review by AHRQ (Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality) are statistically weak. These trials and tests were mostly conducted using an extremely low dose of Omega3 PUFA; this resulted in less sensitive clinical outcomes compared to the ones produced by the optimised ex-vivo studies.

All clinical studies conducted to date have tried to find out how Omega3 PUFA benefits ailing people; however, the majority of the animal studies made the subjects consume Omega3 PUFA before being affected by any ailment. Most clinical trials stop people from obtaining a comprehensive assessment of the wide range of benefits offered by Omega3 PUFA; for instance they do not allow people to gather knowledge on Omega3 PUFA’s effects on disease progression, resolution and initiation.

If you are looking for more reliable information regarding evidences for common applications of long chain Omega3 PUFAs for treating ailments and improving health conditions, consult Medicine Plus by logging into http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/druginfo/natural/patient-fishoil.html.

Key Points

  • A decrease in Omega3 PUFA consumption and increase in Omega6 PUFA consumption has caused an imbalance in modern diet.
  • This imbalance is believed to be the cause of a number of health problems, for instance a significant increase in occurrence of inflammatory diseases.
  • An increased intake of Omega3 PUFA will change the ratio of Omega6 and Omega3 PUFAS in our cell membranes.
  • Consuming higher quantity of Omega3 PUFASs DHA and EPA helps in improving infant and foetal development and also generates cardio-protective, neuro-protective and anti-inflammatory effects.

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