Prostaglandins are a type of eicosanoids and are naturally occurring hormone-like substances that participate in a wide range of body functions. They influence the contraction and relaxation of smooth muscle, the dilation and constriction of blood vessels, control of blood pressure, and modulation of inflammation.
How Dietary Fats Influence Prostaglandins
Our Paleolithic ancestors evolved on a diet with a ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 of 1:1. Our current ratio is estimated to be greater than 20:1!
This unnatural abundance of omega-6 in the diet creates a dangerous imbalance that interferes with production of important prostaglandins. Most “diseases of Westernization” can be attributed to this imbalance.
That’s because prostaglandins are the fundamental regulating molecules in most forms of life. They do not travel in the blood like hormones, but are created inside of cells and serve as catalysts for a large number of biological processes including:
- The movement of calcium and other substances in and out of cells
- Dilation and contraction
- Inhibition and promotion of clotting
- Regulation of secretions, including digestive juices and hormones
- Control of fertility
- Cell division and growth
Biological Roles of Prostaglandins
Let’s take a look at the very different roles of prostaglandins derived from omega-6’s versus those from omega-3’s:
Biological Effects of Prostaglandins
|Series 3 Prostaglandins (from Omega-3)||Series 2 Prostaglandins (from Omega-6)|
|Decreased platelet aggregation (blood clotting)||Increased platelet aggregation (blood clotting)|
|Vasodilation (widening of blood vessels)||Vasoconstriction (narrowing of vessels)|
|Anti-inflammatory effect||Pro-inflammatory effect|
|Immune system enhancement||Immune system suppression|
|Increased oxygen flow||Decreased oxygen flow Decreased cell proliferation|
|Increased cell proliferation, decreased pain||Increased pain|
|Widening of respiratory passages||Narrowing of respiratory passages|
|Increased endurance||Lowered endurance|