Article written by Lucas J. Bader MD
*Words in red are defined in Glossary section at bottom of page
Omega 3 fatty acid is a type of a polyunsaturated essential fatty acid. The prefix poly indicates these class of fats have more than one double bond within their chemical backbone; the number 3 communicates the first double bound is between the 3rd and 4th carbon; essential implies the body cannot synthesis this fatty acid, but needs to obtain it from the diet. Omega 3 fatty acids serve as structural components of cell membranes, process mediators, and energy sources. As a class, polyunsaturated fats are intimately involved in inflammation and act as precursors to inflammation mediators such as prostaglandins and leukotrienes. In general, Omega 3 fatty acids are considered anti-inflammatory and omega 6 are considered pro-inflammatory. Hunter-gather diets, one for which we are naturally adapted for, have an Omega 6 to Omega 3 ratio of roughly 1:1. Prototypical Western diets boast a ratio of between 15 and 30:1. Ouch! Let the inflammation burn.
The Omega 3 found most commonly in typical consumption patterns is alpha-linolenic acid (ALA). Other critical omega 3 fatty acids for healthful living include eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). Fatty fish are rich sources of EPA and DHA. Some scientific data suggests that EPA and DHA are more effective than ALA at reducing the ills of inflammation.
Omega 3’s therapeutic and preventative effectiveness has been explored in a variety of disease states such as inflammatory bowel disease, cardiovascular disease, dysmenorrhea, Alzheimer’s, type II diabetes, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, and arthritis.
- Anti-inflammatory: Omega 3’s primary mode of action is to compete with the Omega 6 arachidonic acid. This effectively sabotages the inflammatory cascade. The end result is decreased Nuclear Factor- KappaBeta pathway activation, reduced production and release of interleukin-1Beta and Tumor Necrosis Factor-Alpha, reduction in Cox-2 activity and PGE2 synthesis, and reduced expression of aggrecanase, MMP-1& MMP-13, ADAMTS-4 & ADAMTS-5.
Population studies suggest an association between reduced Omega 3 intake and increased risk of osteoarthritis.(Purcell et al. Canadian Journal of Dietetic Practice and Research – Vol 77, 2016.) Additionally, Australian researchers treated a group of patients with knee arthritis with Omega 3 supplementation for 24 months. At the end of the study, the treatment group reported less pain and better function compared to the baseline.(Hill et al. Ann Rheum Dis 2016;75:23–29.)
- Brussel Sprouts
Super Duper Salmon Salad with Chia Seeds
Serving size: 2
Preparation time: 10 minutes
Cooking time: 10 minutes
Omega 3 (n-3) 2.927 g 200%
¼ lb salmon (cut in cubes)
¼ cup chopped leeks
3 to 4 cherry tomatoes
1 cup baby spinach
1 avocado (diced)
½ cup pomegranate seeds
½ cup walnuts (chopped)
1 garlic clove (minced)
¼ teaspoon ground ginger
½ tablespoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon olive oil
Salt as needed
Black pepper as needed
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
- Heat oil in a frying pan and add salmon. Saute for 2 to 3 minutes then add garlic and season with salt and black pepper. When golden brown, add lemon juice and remove from heat.
- Now take rest of the ingredients in a large salad bowl and toss well to coat.
- Add the prepared salmon cubes and season with salt and black pepper. Serve immediately.
An upper limit of Omega 3 has not been published. High doses of fish oil supplements may cause loose stools and gastrointestinal distress, magnify effectiveness of anticoagulation medication, and suppress immune function in immune-comprised people. Any consideration of supplementation should be discussed with a qualified health professional.
ADAMTS (a disintegrin and metalloproteinase with thrombospondin motifs): Class of enzymes that precipitate in the demolition of the extracellular matrix. Arthritis relevant examples include: ADAMTS-4, ADAMTS-5.
Aggrecanases: Also referred to as ADAMTS-4. Aggrecanase targets Aggrecan and leads to Aggrecan’s demise.
Arachidonic acid: Omega 6 fatty acid that is a precursor to most prostaglandins and leukotrienes. Arachidonic derivatives are usually pro-inflammatory.
Cyclooxygenase (COX-2) : Enzyme that converts arachidonic acid to pro-inflammatory prostaglandins. COX-2 vital for the propagation of inflammation. NSAIDs target COX-2.
Interleukin (IL-1B, IL-6, and IL-8): A sub type of cytokine that plays an essential role in inflammation. Relevant examples for arthritis include: IL-1B, IL-6, and IL-8. Within the framework of osteoarthritis, the aforementioned interleukins promote inflammation and eventual joint destruction.
Leukotriene: A subclass of Eicosanoids. Leukotrienes are influential mediators in inflammation.
Matrix metalloproteinases (MMP): Group of enzymes that are intimately involved in the destruction of the extracellular matrix. Arthritis relevant examples include: MMP-1, MMP-3, MMP-13.
Nuclear Factor- KappaBeta: Signaling pathway that is triggered by external signals, such as pro-inflammatory cytokines. Nuclear Factor- KB mediates the synthesis of new cellular and extracellular molecules. Activation of this pathway often promotes excessive inflammation and gratuitous joint destruction.
Prostaglandins(PGE2): A subclass of Eicosanoids. Prostaglandins are the principle mediators in inflammation. Chief subtype is Prostaglandin E2.
Tumor Necrosis Factor-Alpha: A key pro-inflammatory cytokine. Exuberant synthesis of Tumor Necrosis Factor Alpha seems to catalyze joint degradation.
For complete Glossary click here.