Before I begin, a quick holiday schedule update: Monday (12/23) Class at 6 am and 6 pm. Tuesday (12/24) one class at 10 am. Closed Christmas. Thursday (12/26) Class at 6 am and 6 pm. Friday (12/27) Class at 6 am and 6 pm. Saturday and Sunday (12/29) regular schedule. Monday (12/30) Class at 6 am and 6 pm. Tuesday (12/31) One class at 10 am. Closed New Years Day. Thursday returns to normal schedule. Sorry if this is hard to read, cant figure out graphs yet.

Eicosanoids, prostaglandins, and fish oil.

This post was going to be mainly about fish oil, but after trying to figure out the mechanism of action those acids play in our bodies, I realized a better, more useful discussion would have to be about eicosanoids. In looking into eicosanoids, I further solidified my stance that a Zone-favorable diet is the best way to produce a balance between good and bad eicosanoids. My views of fish oil supplementation did change slightly: it should be considered if real fish are not eaten regularly and not as the answer.


...eicosanoids are the most powerful biological agents known to man...
— Dr. Barry Sears, The Zone

Hormones get most of the press, until now, because they were much easier to study. Hormones are messengers of the endocrine system. They are produced in an organ and travel through the blood to a target cell and their actions are always the same. Eicosanoids are signaling molecules that are part of the paracrine and autocrine systems. This means they are produced close to the intended target, and sometimes within the membranes of that target, respectively. They control many bodily systems. Their lives are incredibly short, and very small amounts are used. Because of that, researchers needed more sophisticated instrumentation to study them, and thus hormones got the press while eicosanoids had to lay in wait. The first eicosanoids where discovered in the prostate gland and were given the name prostaglandins. Since, many other subclasses of eicosanoids were discovered. Leukotrienes, which control bronchial constriction and allergies. Prostacyclins  and thromboxanes, are important in the discussion of heart disease. Lipoxins and hydroxylated fatty acids are two more subclasses that control inflammatory responses and regulating the immune system.

I will introduce eicosanoids as being both good and bad. This is not to mean that you do not want a certain type in your body at all. Every eicosanoid plays a roll that maintains homeostasis, it is the imbalance that can create illness. For instance a good eicosanoid will inhibit platelet aggregation. A bad one will promote platelet aggregation that can in turn cause a stroke. Just looking at these two functions, we can see how if an imbalance occurred we would have a serious problem.

Eicosanoids are controlled by dietary fat. There is a cascade of events that starts with the ingestion of dietary fat and depending on conditions (such as illness or stress) and the amounts of enzymes, as well as other types of fats, and of course hormones, we will produce eicosanoids, both good and bad. Our body requires 8 essential fatty acids, that are broken down into 2 groups; omega 6 and omega 3. Omega 6 fatty acids are the type that will produce good and bad eicosanoids. Omega 3's will produce relatively neutral eicosanoids, however as we will see, one type of omega 3 found in fish oil will influence the production of good eicosanoids.

The process starts with an omega 6 fatty acid known as linoleic acid. Linoleic acid is found in nearly all food. In most cases, the higher the fat content the higher the linoleic acid. It is then carried by low-density lipoproteins to the cells. In the cell, an enzyme named delta 6 desaturase converts the linoleic acid to a more metabolically activated fatty acid known as gamma linolenic acid (GLA). GLA is rarely found in food, the most abundant source is in human breast milk. Our bodies have a window in which we can make adequate amounts of GLA. It starts around 6 months after birth, and begins to decline after the age of 30. It is this reason that babies who are able to breast feed for the first 6 months of their lives are healthier and leaner. The production of GLA and/or deficiency of GLA will determine the amount of eicosanoids produced, more on this later. One more conversion must take place before eicosanoids can be produced. GLA must be converted to dihomo gamma linolenic acid (DGLA). From this point, delta 5 desaturase channels DGLA into arachidonic acid or it leaves some to become good eicosanoids. Arachidonic acid is the building block of bad eicosanoids.

Our diets, among other things can negatively influence this process at many points along the way. One way is to consume large amounts of carbs which will slow down delta 6 desaturase and thus decrease GLA production. Another way to impede eicosanoid production is to ingest trans fatty acids. They too inhibit delta 6 desaturase, and GLA production is stunted. DGLA and arachadonic acid balance are crucial to optimal health. This balance is controlled by delta 5 desaturase. The more active delta 5 desaturase, the more arachadonic acid is produced, the more bad eicosanoids are developed. Delta 5 desaturase is activated by insulin and inhibited by glucagon. Glucagon is a hormone produced in the pancreas that opposes insulin. When blood sugar is low, glucagon causes the liver to convert glycogen to glucose. With that being said we can see how a low carb diet made up of low glycemic sources can set us up for an optimal balance of good and bad eicosanoids. Another influence on the activity of delta 5 desaturase is eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA). This is a member of the omega 3 fatty acid group and is found in fish and more concentrated in fish oils. EPA, like glucagon will inhibit the activity of delta 5 desaturase, and in turn produce more good eicosanoids.

In closing the best way to control the balance of good and bad eicosanoids is to control hormonal balance of insulin and glucagon. To add a little more security, supplementing with fish oil is a great idea.

This study illustrates how EPA has an anti-inflammatory effect, by increasing good eicosanoid production. It does this, as we discussed above by inhibiting delta 5 desaturase from converting DGLA into arachadonic acid.


Today's WOD

5X2 Jerk

A) 5XME HSPU, B) 5X5 Pendlay Row

5 Hang Squat Snatches 95/68#

10 T2B

200m Run

10 Hang Squat Snatches

20 T2B

400m Run

5 Hang Squat Snatches

10 T2B

200m Run

*12 min cap