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How do omega-3 fatty acids work in our body?
A multitude of positive health effects are ascribed to the omega-3 fatty acids, from a lowering of the blood lipid values to a strengthening of the cardiovascular system. However, the underlying molecular mechanisms have so far been unclear. A research team from the University of Wuppertal has now examined these in more detail and identified the formation of oxylipins as a result of omega-3 intake as a key factor.
"The fact that omega-3 fatty acids have a positive effect on human health has been scientifically proven"; the researchers report in a press release from the University of Wuppertal. However, the molecular mechanism behind this effect is less known. Together with British colleagues, the food chemists from the University of Wuppertal have therefore investigated this aspect in more detail in a current study. Their results were published in the "American Journal of Clinical Nutrition".
Omega-3 fatty acids have numerous positive properties
Most of the time, nutritional recommendations also point out the importance of omega-3 fatty acids and therefore, for example, regular fish consumption is advised. These special unsaturated fatty acids are said to help lower blood lipid levels and regulate inflammation, for example. "Omega-3 fatty acids have numerous positive properties for health," emphasize the researchers. Fish rich in fat from especially cold waters such as salmon, mackerel and herring are particularly rich in omega-3 fatty acids. The main omega-3 fatty acids here are eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA).
Conversion to oxylipine
It was already known that the omega-3 fatty acids are partially converted into so-called eikosanoids and other oxylipins by the body after they are ingested, the researchers explain. "These oxidized fatty acids are strong messenger substances and therefore important for signal transmission and chemical communication in the cells," explains Professor Dr. Nils Helge Schebb, head of the chair for food chemistry at the University of Wuppertal. "Oxylipins from omega-3 fatty acids act as mediators with many physiological functions, such as the inhibition of inflammation," the expert continues.
Connection with the oxylipins in the blood
In the current study, the researchers now investigated how the intake of omega-3 fatty acids affects the concentration of these oxylipins in the blood. Healthy people were given the amount of EPA and DHA from one, two and four servings of fish per week for a year. The amount of omega-3 fatty acids remained constant within the groups. The study team also examined the amount of oxylipins in the blood at certain times.
Linear relationship found
According to Professor Schebb, the researchers were interested in the changes in the oxylipin pattern depending on the portions of omega-3 fatty acids. "We were able to establish a clear linear relationship"; reports the expert. Put simply, the more fish someone eats, the more oxylipins the body forms. The organism therefore does not regulate the formation of oxylipins. "Whatever is recorded is also processed," says Professor Schebb. From the scientific point of view, this clear connection is exciting and a good basis for further research into the effects of omega-3 fatty acids. (fp)