Arachidonic acid: Why this omega-6 in your diet might be killing you

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Arachidonic acid affects the heart

Heart health can be compromised by too much arachidonic acid within the body. (Shutterstock)

 

Unknown to most everyone, arachidonic acid, an omega-6 polyunsaturated fatty acid, is considered essential to a healthy diet; however, too much of this nutrient can be bad news for the body. Are you eating too much of it without even knowing it?

Not only can large quantities of arachidonic acid increase an individual’s risk for cancer, asthma, inflammatory bowel disease, rheumatoid arthritis, and other autoimmune disorders, but it has also been linked to an increased risk for heart disease.

Research indicates much of the danger associated with arachidonic acid is related to the inflammatory processes it can cause within the body.

Dr. Case Adams explains arachidonic acid stimulates the production of pro-inflammatory prostaglandins and leucotrienes, and when too much of the omega-6 is in the body, the inflammatory response becomes difficult to reverse.

Because cell membranes within the body are composed of lipids, imbalances of fatty acids can cause malformations and weaknesses, making cells more vulnerable to free radicals. This vulnerability can cause tissue breakdown and eventually lead to heart conditions such as atherosclerosis and heart attack.

Where does arachidonic acid come from?

Arachidonic acid is a naturally occurring fatty acid found primarily in red meats—particularly organ meats—fatty fish, and egg yolks. It is sometimes an additive put into processed foods, especially those designed to supplement a vegetarian or vegan diet.

A report from the Christian Broadcasting Network indicates high insulin levels also trigger the production of this omega-6 fatty acid in the body.

How can you cut back on arachidonic acid in your diet?

The key to reducing the amount of arachidonic acid in the body is to eliminate the building blocks for this particular omega-6 fatty acid. This can be done through diet modification.

Individuals looking to reduce their risk should first look to replace vegetable oils with olive oil, as omega-6 fatty acids are found in higher quantities in vegetable oil. Similarly, products with trans fats should be avoided for the same reason, and this includes any items with hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated oils.

Limiting the intake of red meats, organ meats and egg yolks will go a long way for reducing arachidonic acid intake.

Last but not least, eating regular meals evenly spaced throughout the day will help keep arachidonic acid in check by keeping the body’s insulin levels at a consistent level.

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