As a biochemist researching a medical thriller novel, I find some interesting science while doing my background research. While getting information about whale oil for The Neah Virus, I came across some unexpected information. How about an entirely new insight into inflammation, allergy, and arthritis, and new ways to treat them? That’s what I’m onto.
Scientists have known for decades that the American diet is deficient in certain healthy oils and overloaded with other not-so-healthy oils. The end result of this imbalance is early death from hardening of the arteries, which is an inflammatory condition, and lots of suffering from the pain of arthritis and the swelling of allergy.
In response, health-food advocates and medical professionals have for several decades recommended people get more omega-3 fatty acids in their diets by eating the right foods or taking supplements in pill form. They have also suggested that a dose of baby aspirin every day also helps dampen inflammation.
Well, what’s new is the discovery in the year 2000 of exactly how these supplements and pills work. They cause your body to produce resolvins and protectins.
Whatins and whoseins, you say?
The image at the top of this note is a chemical schematic of resolvin D2, one of a group of molecules produced by your body to help “resolve” inflammation. These beneficial oils are only produced in sufficient quantity when enough omega-3 fats are around to make them from (one of these omega-3s, docosahexaenoic acid or DHA, is shown at right).
Here’s the cool thing that’s just been discovered in the last few years: aspirin interacts with the enzyme in your body that converts DHA to resolvins. This science is so new that nobody seems to have gotten on the health-food bandwagon about it yet. I’m somewhere near the first to “get it” and that’s only because I have five years of PhD training at Cornell Medical College under my belt and a lifetime in the lab.
The researchers who have spearheaded studies of resolvins and protectins (similar molecules that stop brain inflammation) seem as amazed as I am at their findings. Suddenly, decades of knowledge that omega-3 oils and aspirin are good for inflammation sufferers have come together, and even more powerful beneficial molecules have been identified.
So what am I gonna do about it? I’m gonna take more omega-3 supplement pills than I used to, and keep taking that baby aspirin daily. At least now I know why I’m doing it.