Arachidonic acid - Foods - Sources

Jan 2014  Food sources of arachidonic acid
is an omega-6 polyunsaturated fatty acid required by our body for the pro-inflammatory immune responses in healing and repair process.
Too much arachidonic acid from food sources leads to body's over immune response with excess production of prostaglandins and leucotrienes causing inflammatory diseases. Rich arachidonic acid foods include organ meat, certain fish like tilapia and egg-yolk.

The importance of arachidonic acid can be gauged from the fact that it is one of the most abundant fatty acids in the brain, accounting for ten per cent of its fat content. ARA protects the brain from oxidative damage by activating PPAR-gamma.

The impaired metabolism of ARA can lead to neurological problems. ARA is required for early neurological development. It is found to activate the protein connected with the growth and the repair of neuron cells.

The growth of muscles tissue after workout is induced by the presence of arachidonic acid in sufficient quantities. It is a PUFA and is present attached to phospholipids in the cell membranes. It is involved in cellular signaling and initiates cascades of biochemical processes for the production of inflammatory eicosanoids.

ALA and LA are precursors to three biochemically very important omega FAs. The same enzymes are required for the conversion of ALA into DHA and also LA into ARA. The presence of omega-3 ALA in sufficient quantities in the food sources is found to compete for the enzymes resulting in lesser amount of LA being converted into ARA. So a proper balance in the ratio between omega-3 and omega-6 is necessary. However our present day food habits and preferences have given an abnormal tilt towards omega-6 with omega-3 content getting greatly reduced. This has to be corrected and a healthy ratio of 2:1 between omega-3 and omega-6 must be aimed for in our food intake.

Food sources of arachidonic acid

  • Sources of ARA are meat, seafood and poultry.
  • Animal organs like liver, brain, kidneys have high concentrations of this FA.
  • The concentration of ARA in foods from animal sources is lesser in grazing animals than animals fed with formulated feed.
  • Lamb liver is believed to contain the greatest amount of ARA.
  • Egg yolk for its weight contains high amounts of ARA.
  • Farm raised fish like tilapia and catfish have high levels of this FA.
  • Many plant foods such as vegetable oils are indirect sources of arachidonic acid.
  • Most of the oils contain high concentration of linoleic acid, a precursor for synthesis of ARA in the body.
To sum up we have to understand that arachidonic acid is very important for many biochemical processes in the body. However its excess presence can precipitate many inflammatory disorders. The intake of sufficient omega-3 fats attunes the presence of ARA. Selection of foods from various sources for balancing the presence of omega-3 and omega-6 fats will negate the harmful effects of excess of arachidonic acid.

Chilton FH, Rudel LL, Parks JS, Arm JP, Seeds MC. Mechanisms by which botanical lipids affect inflammatory disorders. Am J Clin Nutr. 2008 Feb;87(2):498S-503S.
Current topic in nutritional deficiency diseases:
Sources of arachidonic acid in foods.

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