Environmental, cultural and practical changes in the industrialized world have resulted in alterations in dietary habits that have had interesting, if not life-threatening implications. The human physiology has remained relatively unchanged for tens of thousands of years- diet remaining relatively unchanged, but for the periodic and unpredictable famine. Rather suddenly, rapid and remarkable dietary changes occurred.
Diets rich in fiber, complicated carbohydrates and omega-3 fatty acids were changed to diets poor in fiber, rich in simple carbohydrates and rich in omega-6 fatty acids. Replacement of simple carbohydrates for the more natural complicated carbohydrates introduces a vulnerability to diabetes, obesity, autoimmune disorders and vascular disease. Replacement of omega-6 fatty acids for omega-3 fatty acids introduces a vulnerability to inflammatory diseases, vascular diseases and cancer.
The human diet influenced human physiology for many thousands of years before the modern age. Omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids had been consumed through a combination of vegetable and animal sources resulting in a rather stable ratio between the two classes of oils. The Western Diet, however, changed, resulting in an increase in the amount of omega-6 fatty acids and a steady decline in the amount of omega-3’s. As it were, maintenance of the ratio was important for reasons more subtle than simple caloric intake.
Given the fact that the Western Diet has increased omega-6 (pro-inflammatory) fatty acids relative to the omega-3 (anti-inflammatory) fatty acids, the intake of these EFA’s can be adjusted to restore a more normal ratio through the reduction of omega-6’s and the introduction of omega-3 fatty acids.
Distilled to the essence, the problem is systemic inflammation. While this may sound a bit simplistic, most elegant problems and elegant solutions are simple in nature. Omega-6 fatty acids metabolize into pro-inflammatory modulators known as prostaglandins and leukotrienes. The Omega-3 fatty acids metabolize into anti-inflammatory modulators known as resolvins and protectins.
Resolvins are compounds metabolized from the omega-3 fatty acids eicosapentanaeic acid (EPA), and docosahexanoic acid (DHA). They are produced by through the cyclo-oxygenase pathway, increased in the presence of aspirin. Resolvins reduce cellular inflammation by inhibiting the production and transportation of inflammatory cells. Compounds derived from EPA are designated as resolvins of the E series, while those formed from the precursor DHA are denoted as either resolvins or protectins (formerly ‘neuroprotectins’ of the D series.
Interaction of Omega-3 Fatty Acids and Aspirin
The resolvins and neuroprotectins are distinctive compounds. These lipids are strong anti-inflammatory agents, with immunoregulatory activities at very low concentrations. They are involved in molecular mechanisms that regulate and modulate removal of inflammatory cells and cell byproducts. They restore of tissue integrity once the immediate need for an inflammatory response has ended.
Through actions involving resolvins and protectins, aspirin facilitates the resolution of inflammation. At local sites of inflammation, aspirin enhances the conversion of the omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA to 18Roxygenated products, resolvins of the E and D series, which are potent anti-inflammatory agents. Low dose aspirin, combined with omega-3 fatty acids is an extremely potent anti-inflammatory combination.