, Volume 6, Issue 2, pp 146-154
Date: 18 Feb 2012

Fatty Acids and Their Derivatives in Cardiovascular Disease: Arachidonic, Eicosapentaenoic, and Docosahexaenoic Acids and Their Byproducts, the Eicosanoids and Docosanoids

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Lipids and their metabolites are now known to play essential roles in not only cardiovascular health and disease, but numerous other inflammatory processes as well. A multitude of diseases are being rigorously studied in the context of lipids and their metabolites. Dementias, rheumatologic and dermatologic diseases, neurologic repair, and proper neural development of the fetus and newborn child are just a few. The rapidly advancing fields of Lipidomics and more recently Signalolipidomics are reshaping our understanding of and approach to the mechanisms that lead to health and illness. In order for clinicians to become comfortable in this incontrovertibly relevant realm, they must develop a firm grasp of the fundamentals of lipids and their complex metabolism. As a consequence of the very high background intake of linoleic acid (LA) in the western world, alpha linolenic acid (ALA) cannot be efficiently and adequately converted into eicosapentaenoic and docosahexaenoic Acids (EPA and DHA) as well as their derivatives, all of which are fats known to augment health. Thus, EPA and DHA must be consumed in order for us to enjoy their myriad health benefits. In this review, EPA and DHA of the omega-3 family, and arachidonic acid (AA) of the omega-6 family, as well as their varied and oftentimes competing metabolites, are explored. Their nomenclature is explained and the integral roles they play in cardiovascular health and disease are emphasized.