Prostaglandins are short-lived, hormone-like compounds that our bodies make in a series of steps from the two essential fats, cis-linoleic acid (omega-6) and sis-linolenic acid (omega-3). 85% of the US population is now deficient in omega-3 essential fats, because modern methods of food processing have destroyed most of them in the food chain. The amount of essential fats required for health is 6-10gms/day (larger by far than for any vitamin or mineral). Athletes require even more because of the multiple uses of essential fats during exercise. Prostaglandins regulate every cell, every organ and every bodily function – therefore the right amount of essential fatty acids are crucial for proper prostaglandin functioning!. There are more than 50 different types of prostaglandins. Problems in their production result in disease, like cancer, asthma, allergies and autoimmune diseases like rheumatoid arthritis, lupus. If a prostaglandin imbalance is suspected, the first thing to look for is whether they are getting enough EFAs (linoleic acid (LA) and linolenic acid (LNA). The second culprit to look for is a deficiency in the key co-factor vitamins and minerals (Vit A, B-6, C and E and magnesium, zinc, copper and selenium), that make it possible for enzymes to regulate the metabolism of LA and LNA.
Prostaglandins are divided into three series according to the fat they are made of.
Series 1 prostaglandins (E1) are made from dihomogammalinolenic acid, an intermediate in the omega-6 chain. Series 2 (E2) are made from arachidonic acid, the end-point of the omega-6 chain.
Series 3 (E3) are made from eicosapentaenoic acid, last step but one of the omega-3 chain.
E1 – THE PROTECTOR:
Prostaglandin E1 helps to stop platelets sticking together to form clots, lower your blood pressure, inhibits development of osteoarthritis, reduce pain and inflammatory reactions and promotes excretion of excess sodium via the kidneys.
E1 also inhibits release of arachidonic acid from cell membranes where it is stored. As long as it stays in store, arachidonic acid can’t be converted to prostaglandin E2, thereby preventing excess E2 production. Adequate production of E1 is vital to protect our cardiovascular system and our joints and to rid our body of excess sodium (preventing water retention and bloating). E1 reduces blood pressure – the epidemic of hypertension is partly due to the widespread dietary deficiency of cis-essential fats.
Even with enough cislonoleic acid, you still may be unable to produce sufficient E1. To make it your body has to be able to turn linoleic acid (LA) into gamma-linolenic acid (GLA). This conversion requires the activity of an enzyme delta-6-desaturase. High levels of saturated fats, cholesterol, or trans-fats in your diet, excess alcohol consumption, zinc deficiency and other factors compromise delta-6-desaturase and inhibit the production of prostaglandin E1. It is important to prevent this problem in Western diets, because without enough of the protector E1, prostaglandin E2 quickly gets out of control.
E2 – THE VILLAN:
Prostaglandin E2 is made from the end fat of the omega-6 chain, arachidonic acid. Arachidonic acid promotes platelet clumping, tells kidneys to retain salt, increases pain and inflammation – exactly opposite in action to prostaglandin E1!. A design mistake in the human body?…No, it is necessary to stop bleeding in injuries, to warn you with pain not to exert an injured bodypart, to promote immune actions in infections and illnesses and to prevent dehydration. But in Western society, widespread overproduction of E2 yields hypertension, sodium and water retention and chronically inflamed bodies with swollen painful joints…the villan that steals our health and performance!
Prostaglandins E1 and E2 are both made from cis-linoleic acid. So how can people (and athletes) be deficient in E1, while overproducing E2?. The answer lies in our diet:
E2 becomes the villan, mainly because of high meat consumption. The saturated fats in meat, inhibits delta-6-desaturase and the conversion of linoleic acid, leaving us short of anti-inflammatory prostaglandin E1. Also, even the leanest meat, is loaded with preformed arachidonic acid, thereby boosting production of pro-inflammatory E2!
E2 increases blood clotting and platelet aggregation, causing blood clots in the brain and arteries. The staggering rates of heart attacks and strokes caused by blood clots, point to excess E2 as the leading cause!
People with inflammatory conditions, like arthritis, show excess E2 production. This excess puts their bodies on the edge of inflammation 24 hours a day. Aspirin works against arthritis, by lowering E2 levels. The right balance of essential fats can do a much better job!.
E3 – THE DEFENDER:
The body manufactures E3 from eicosapentaenoic acid, the last step but one of the omega-3 chain.
Eicosapentaenoic acid and E3 both prevent production and activity of arachidonic acid even more strongly than E1 (the Zone diet focuses on the control function of eicosapentaenoic acid). The saturated fats, trans-fats, excess alcohol and mineral deficiencies in our diets, inhibit the activity of the delta-6-desaturase enzyme. So, even if you do take enough cis-alpha-linolenic acid, your body are unable to make the conversion to the rest of the omega-3 chain. No conversion, no eicosapentaenoic acid, no E3 and the villan E2 overruns the body again.
ATHLETES are worst for three reasons:
- they eat higher amounts of animal protein, increasing the arachidonic acid burden.
- Intense exercise increases prostaglandin E2 production.
- E2 is catabolic to the muscle (muscle degradation).
As a direct result of high protein diets and intense exercise, many athletes have high levels of E2 in the blood, putting them always on the edge of inflammation and muscle loss. The extra protein in sports diets is essential to maintain and build muscle and strength against the catabolic effect of heavy training. Thus the best way for athletes to reduce excessive E2 production, is to supplement the diet with essential fats.
Smarter athletes shy away from meats, but make the equal mistake of eating processed vegetable oils. Most margarines, cooking oils, processed vegetable foods (soyburgers) and all baked goods are full of trans-fats. A whole-grain, hi-bran muffin, can contain 15 grams of processed vegetable oil, most of it converted by processing and cooking into trans-fats. Forget the vegetable dishes cooked in oil as well!.
Most athletes have compromised their ability to process essential fats. The use of preformed fats , in addition to the essential fats, will solve this problem. Preformed gamma-linolenic acid (GLA) from
ORGANIC BORAGE OIL to boost E1 production and preformed eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) from FISH OIL to boost E3 production. (vegetarians can use seaweed/marine algae). Combine these with multiple antioxidants, glucosamine sulfate and anti-inflammatory flavonoids (proanthocyanidins from grape seed oil) – the result is a potent REMEDY FOR TENDINITIS, SORE, INFLAMED JOINTS AND RAPID RECOVERY FROM GRUELING WORKOUTS.
The ideal supplementary amounts of GLA and EPA vary from one individual to the other, depending on the degree of inhibition of delta-6-desaturase, their body weight, calorie intake and level of training. A sedentary male needs about 6 grams/day (2% of total calories) of linoleic acid (LA) and 2 grams/day (0.7% of total calories) of alpha-linolenic acid (ALA). An athletes MINIMAL supplement needs, is 2.8% of calories as LA and 6.2% of calories as ALA and on top of that, an additional 2-4 grams of each of preformed fats (GLA from borage oil and eicosapentaenoic acid from fish oil).
Increased prostaglandin E1, from supplementary LA and preformed GLA, increase brain levels of the hormone somatotropin, which increases growth hormone output and thus increases the production of insulin-like-growth-factor-1 (IGF-1) – important for strength and power athletes!. Adding omega-3 fats on top of IGF-1, increases the binding of IGF-1 to muscle and boosts anabolism of the muscle.
Important for endurance athletes, prostaglandin E1, increases blood flow and oxygenates the muscles, organs and brain.
Do essential fats improve sports performance?. Studies have shown that effects of essential fats may take time – big improvements didn’t show for 3-6 months or more. Another study examining endurance, have shown that supplying healthy young men with 4 grams of omega-3 fats/day (ate salmon) have improved their VO2 max by 11%, compared with the placebo group – a huge improvement for elite athletes!