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.
Naturally occurring saturated fats are primarily found in animal and dairy products (family #2 fats) and in some vegetable fats. To clarify: the words “saturated” and “hydrogenated” means the same thing chemically. However, if the words “hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated” appears on a label, it means the fat has been processed and is no longer in it’s natural form. When naturally occurring polyunsaturated fats (cis variety) are commercially changed by the process of hydrogenation and partial hydrogenation, they are altered to the trans variety and become harmful to the body.
All of the fats of family #1 and #3 are polyunsaturated fats (most food and fish oils), while the fats of family #2 need to be limited.
“Trans” and “cis” refer to whether the ends of the fatty acid molecule are on the same side of the double bond (cis) or on opposite sides of the double bond (trans).
The half –life of cis fatty acids is 18 days – therefore the turnover of naturally occurring fatty acids is less than 3 weeks. In chronic patients, making changes with EFA supplementation often takes at least three weeks. A common therapy for hot flashes in women, has been a multiple EFA product taken for three weeks.
The half-life of trans fatty acids is 51 days – half of the bad fats from the potato chip you eat today are still in your body two months from now!
Fats refers to the class of nutrients known as lipids. All fats are esters (links) of fatty acids and glycerol. The lipid family includes triglycerides (fats and oils), phospholipids (lecithin) and sterols (cholesterol). Triglycerides (glycerol and three fatty acids) are the most abundant in foods and in the body. Chemically lipids are composed of five elements: carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, nitrogen and phosphorus.
Lipids are characterized by the presence of fatty acids (and derivatives) and solubility in fat solvents (alcohol, acetone, chloroform ether). Fatty acids are derived lipids, since they are constituents of phospholipids, sphingolipids, glycolipids, waxes and steroids ( cyclic alcohol, contain no fatty acids). Lipids are essential structural components of the cell membrane, are stored in fat depots and serve as major energy sources for man and animals.