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Biochem Soc Trans. 2005 Apr;33(Pt 2):423-7.

Polyunsaturated fatty acids and inflammation.

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  • 1Institute of Human Nutrition, School of Medicine, University of Southampton, Bassett Crescent East, Southampton SO16 7PX, UK.


The n-6 polyunsaturated fatty acid, arachidonic acid, is a precursor of prostaglandins, leukotrienes and related compounds that have important roles as mediators and regulators of inflammation. Consuming increased amounts of long chain n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (found in oily fish and fish oils) results in a partial replacement of the arachidonic acid in cell membranes by eicosapentaenoic and docosahexaenoic acids. This leads to decreased production of arachidonic acid-derived mediators. This alone is a potentially beneficial anti-inflammatory effect of n-3 fatty acids. However, n-3 fatty acids have a number of other effects that might occur downstream of altered eicosanoid production or are independent of this. For example, they result in suppressed production of pro-inflammatory cytokines and can modulate adhesion molecule expression. These effects occur at the level of altered gene expression.

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