PUFA in Health and Disease


Polyunsaturated fats (or PUFA) are primarily found in plant-based foods and oils. Research on the effects and health benefits of PUFA as well as amounts needed by different cohorts is prolific and our scientists at Asha are very significant contributors in this field. Asha’s Chief Medical Officer and Chairman of the Scientific Advisory Board, Dr. Undurti Das, is a thought leader in this field and some of his publications are listed here.

The lipids that matter from infant nutrition to insulin resistance

Das UN, Prostaglandins Leukot Essent Fatty Acids. 2002 Jul;67(1):1-12

Breast-fed infants showed decreased incidence of obesity, hypertension, diabetes mellitus, and coronary heart disease in later life and higher cognitive function. Breast milk is rich in long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids (LCPUFAs) and brain preferentially accumulates LCPUFAs during the last trimester of pregnancy and the first few months of life. Breast-fed infants showed significantly lower plasma glucose levels and higher percentage of docosahexaenoic acid and total percentages of LCPUFAs in their skeletal muscle biopsies compared with formula fed. LCPUFAs suppress the production of pro-inflammatory cytokines, regulate the function of several neurotransmitters, enhance the number of insulin receptors in the brain and other tissues, and decrease insulin resistance. LCPUFAs may enhance the production of bone morphogenetic proteins (BMPs), which participate in neurogenesis. It is proposed that the beneficial effects of breast feeding in later life can be attributed to its rich LCPUFA content. It is likely that inadequate breast feeding results in marginal deficiency of LCPUFAs during the critical stages of development, which can lead to insulin resistance. Hence, promoting prolonged breast feeding and/or supplementing LCPUFAs during the critical stages of development may be beneficial in preventing insulin resistance.

Long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids and chemically induced diabetes mellitus. Effect of omega-3 fatty acids

Suresh Y, Das UN. Nutrition. 2003 Mar;19(3):213-28

In a previous study, we showed that prior oral feeding of oils rich in omega-3 eicosapentaenoic acid and docosahexaenoic acid and omega-6 gamma-linolenic acid and arachidonic acid prevent the development of alloxan-induced diabetes mellitus in experimental animals. We also observed that 99% pure omega-6 fatty acids gamma-linolenic acid and arachidonic acid protect against chemically induced diabetes mellitus. Here we report the results of our studies with omega-3 fatty acids. Alloxan-induced in vitro cytotoxicity and apoptosis in an insulin-secreting rat insulinoma cell line, RIN, was prevented by prior exposure of these cells to alpha-linolenic acid, eicosapentaenoic acid, and docosahexaenoic acid. Prior oral supplementation with alpha-linolenic acid, eicosapentaenoic acid, and docosahexaenoic acid prevented alloxan-induced diabetes mellitus. alpha-Linolenic acid, eicosapentaenoic acid, and docosahexaenoic acid not only attenuated chemical-induced diabetes mellitus but also restored the anti-oxidant status to normal range in various tissues. These results suggested that omega-3 fatty acids can abrogate chemically induced diabetes in experimental animals and attenuate the oxidant stress that occurs in diabetes mellitus.

Long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids and chemically induced diabetes mellitus: effect of omega-6 fatty acids

Suresh Y, Das UN. Nutrition. 2003 Feb;19(2):93-114

We previously showed that prior oral supplementation of oils rich in omega-3, eicosapentaenoic acid and docosahexaenoic acid, and omega-6, gamma-linolenic acid and arachidonic acid, can prevent the development of alloxan-induced diabetes mellitus in experimental animals. But the effect of individual fatty acids on chemically induced diabetes mellitus is not known. We report the results of our studies with omega-6 fatty acids. METHODS: Alloxan-induced in vitro cytotoxicity and apoptosis in an insulin-secreting rat insulinoma cell line, RIN, was prevented by prior exposure of these cells to linoleic acid, gamma-linolenic acid, and arachidonic acid (AA) but not to dihomo-gamma-linolenic acid. Cyclo-oxygenase and lipoxygenase inhibitors did not block this protective action of AA. Prior oral supplementation with gamma-linolenic acid and pre- and simultaneous treatments with AA prevented alloxan-induced diabetes mellitus. RESULTS: Even though pretreatment with linoleic acid and dihomo-gamma-linolenic acid and simultaneous treatment with linoleic acid, gamma-linolenic acid, and dihomo-gamma-linolenic acid did not prevent the development of diabetes mellitus, the severity of diabetes was much less. The saturated fatty acid stearic acid and the monounsaturated fatty acid oleic acid were ineffective in preventing alloxan-induced diabetes mellitus. gamma-Linolenic acid and AA not only attenuated chemically induced diabetes mellitus but also restored the antioxidant status to normal range in various tissues. Changes in the concentrations of various fatty acids of the phospholipid fraction of plasma that occurred as a result of alloxan-induced diabetes mellitus also reverted to normal in the AA-treated animals. CONCLUSIONS: These results suggest that polyunsaturated fatty acids can prevent chemically induced diabetes in experimental animals and attenuate the oxidant stress that occurs in diabetes mellitus.

Prevention of chemically induced diabetes mellitus in experimental animals by polyunsaturated fatty acids

Krishna Mohan I, Das UN., Nutrition. 2001 Feb;17(2):126-51

Previous studies showed that essential fatty-acid deficiency, conjugated linoleic acid, and a peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor-gamma binding agent such as troglitazone can prevent the development of diabetes mellitus in experimental animals. In the present study, we observed that oral supplementation with oils rich in omega-3 eicosapentaenoic acid and docosahexaenoic acid and omega-6 gamma-linolenic acid and arachidonic acid could protect the animals against alloxan-induced diabetes mellitus. These oils rich in omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids not only significantly attenuated chemical-induced diabetes mellitus but also restored the antioxidant status to normal range. Changes in the concentrations of different fatty acids shown by the phospholipid fractions of plasma, liver, and muscle tissues that occurred as a result of alloxan-induced diabetes mellitus also reverted to normal in these animals. Based on these results and the known mechanisms of alloxan, we suggest that omega-3 and omega-6 long-chain fatty acids can prevent chemically induced diabetes mellitus by enhancing the antioxidant status and suppressing production of cytokines.

Essential fatty acid metabolism in patients with essential hypertension, diabetes mellitus and coronary heart disease

Das UN., Prostaglandins, Leukotrienes, and Essential Fatty Acids. 1995 Jun;52(6):387-91

Mortality and morbidity from coronary heart disease (CHD), diabetes mellitus (DM) and essential hypertension (HTN) are higher in people of South Asian descent than in other groups. There is evidence to believe that essential fatty acids (EFAs) and their metabolites may have a role in the pathobiology of CHD, DM and HTN. Fatty acid analysis of the plasma phospholipid fraction revealed that in CHD the levels of gamma-linolenic acid (GLA), arachidonic acid (AA), eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) are low, in patients with HTN linoleic acid (LA) and AA are low, and in patients with non-insulin dependent diabetes mellitus (NIDDM) and diabetic nephropathy the levels of dihomo-gamma-linolenic acid (DGLA), AA, alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) and DHA are low, all compared to normal controls. These results are interesting since DGLA, AA and EPA form precursors to prostaglandin E1, (PGE1), prostacyclin (PGI2), and PGI3, which are potent platelet anti-aggregators and vasodilators and can prevent thrombosis and atherosclerosis. Further, the levels of lipid peroxides were found to be high in patients with CHD, HTN, NIDDM and diabetic nephropathy. These results suggest that increased formation of lipid peroxides and an alteration in the metabolism of EFAs are closely associated with CHD, HTN and NIDDM in Indians.

Asha Nutrition Sciences does not necessarily agree with every statement or inference drawn by the catalogued publications.