Fish Oil May Help Keep Inflammation at Bay

It cuts down on a key inflammatory chemical, study finds

THURSDAY, July 26, 2007 (HealthDay News) -- Eating fish oil, rather than vegetable oil, is a better means of managing the amount of inflammatory chemicals called prostanoids in the body, researchers report.

Researchers at the University of Michigan report that understanding how fish oil works may even help with the development of new anti-inflammatory drugs.

"Prostanoids help control blood pressure, fight allergies, and modulate inflammation, but too much of them, especially those made from vegetable oils, can also lead to increased pain, swelling and redness in various tissues," William H. Smith, professor and chair of biological chemistry at UM, said in a prepared statement.

"Our study shows that prostanoids made from fish oil are less effective at causing pain and swelling than those made from vegetable oil and that adding fish oil to the diet decreases the amount of prostanoids made from vegetable oil," he said.

Smith and his research team added vegetable and fish oils to cultured cells and observed the effects. As fish oil amounts increased, the total prostanoids formed by vegetable oil decreased.

Both oils are converted into prostanoids with the help of enzymes called cyclo-oxygenases (cox) of two types: cox-1 and cox-2. Fish oil prefers to bind with cox-1, preventing vegetable oil from binding to the enzyme. However, fish oil did not have the same protective effect with cox-2 and a significant amount of the vegetable oil was still changed into prostanoids.

According to Smith, a better understanding of the difference between the two enzymes could open up avenues for anti-inflammatory drugs that target cox-2 and reduce the production of prostanoids from vegetable oil.

"The drugs that are currently used to inhibit cox-1 and cox-2 provide relief from the symptoms of inflammation and pain, but they still have many side effects," Smith said. "By better understanding how prostanoids work at the cellular level, we hope to find new ways to regulate inflammation and create better anti-inflammatory drugs."

The study is published in the Aug. 3 issue of Journal of Biological Chemistry.

More information

To learn more about inflammation, visit the Muscular Dystrophy Association.

SOURCE: American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, news release, July 26, 2007
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