The importance of long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids, or LCPUFAs, is well documented across the full spectrum of patient care from premature infants to aging adults and individuals with acute conditions or chronic diseases.1,2 LCPUFAs, including omega-3 (docosahexaenoic acid or DHA and eicosapentaenoic acid or EPA) and omega-6 (arachidonic acid or AA), are often referred to as essential or “good fats” because they are required for normal growth, to support immunity, and can improve cardiovascular and brain health. However, DHA/EPA and AA need to be hydrolyzed (digested) into their absorbable form – free fatty acids and monoglycerides – to obtain their health benefits.3 Omega-3 and omega-6 free fatty acids and monoglycerides are first absorbed from the gastrointestinal lumen into the blood stream, then they are incorporated into cell membranes in all tissues of the body, in particular the brain, retina, and heart.
Nearly all of today’s infant formulas and adult nutritional drinks have been enhanced to include the triglyceride form of DHA/EPA and AA. Most people can break these fats down into their absorbable fatty acid and monoglyceride forms and then get the benefits of utilizing these key omega-3 and omega-6 nutrients. However, across many patient groups, malabsorption, or the inability to adequately digest or absorb key nutrients in fats such as LCPUFAs, is a challenge.4 These people lack sufficient endogenous enzymes, have impaired gastrointestinal function, or reduced pool of bile salts to sufficiently digest the triglyceride form of LCPUFAs. When the pancreas is compromised, it leads to an inability to digest fats, particularly LCPUFAs, and can result in poor growth and development, reduced caloric intake, weight loss, reduced life expectancy, and diminished quality of life.5
Alcresta Therapeutics is providing the next generation solution to address the problem of inadequate nutrient digestion by offering a broad range of point-of-care enzyme-based products specifically designed to improve the delivery, digestion, and absorption of key nutrients such as LCPUFAs.
About DHA and EPA
DHA is the primary structural fat in the brain and retina of the eye, and is also a key component of the heart.6,7 Numerous studies have shown that DHA and EPA omega-3 are critically important for infant brain, eye, and nervous system development, especially in the third trimester of pregnancy, and that these fatty acids support long-term heart health and immune system strength.8 In adults, DHA and EPA have demonstrated extensive health benefits, including the improvement of cognitive function, decreased inflammation, support in cancer treatments and the prevention of heart disease. Over time, decreased fat absorption can lead to deficiencies in important fatty acids, such as omega-3. A balanced ratio of omega-3 to omega-6 fatty acids is beneficial in maintaining normal development, immunological, and cognitive function as well as overall health.2
Arachidonic acid, AA, is a long-chain omega-6 fatty acid. It is the principal omega-6 in the brain and represents about 48 percent of the omega-6 fats.
Like DHA and EPA, AA omega-6 is important for proper brain development in infants and for a lifetime of neurological health. It is also a precursor to a group of hormone-like substances called eicosanoids that play a role in immunity, blood clotting, and other vital functions in the body.9
1. Arnoldussen IA, Killian AJ. Impact of DHA on metabolic diseases from womb to tomb. Mar Drugs 2014;12(12):6190-6212.
2. Uauy R, Mena P, Rojas C. Essential fatty acids in early life: structural and functional role. Proc Nutr Soc 2000;59(1):3-15.
3. Simopoulos AP. The importance of the ratio of omega 6/omega 3 essential fatty acids. Biomed Pharmacother 2002;56(8):365-379.
4. Peretti N et al. Mechanisms of lipid malabsorption in cystic fibrosis: the impact of essential fatty acids deficiency. Nutr Metab 2005;2(1):11.
5. Bakker EM et al. Determining the presence of lung disease in young children with cystic fibrosis: lung clearance index, oxygen saturation and cough frequency. J Cyst Fibros 2012;11(3):223-230.
6. SanGiovanni JP, Chew EY. The role of omega-3 long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids in health and disease of the retina. Prog Retin Eye Res 2005;24(1):87-138.
7. Ramadeen A, Dorian P. How are n-3 LCPUFAs antiarrhythmatic? A reassessment of n-3 LCPUFAs in cardiac disease. Cardiol Res Pract 2012;2012:746709.
8. Fares S et al. Plasma arachidonic and docosahexaenoic acids in Tunisian very low birth weight infants: status and association with selected neonatal morbidities. J Health Pop Nutr 2015;33:1.
9. Calder PC. Omega-3 fatty acids and inflammatory processes. Nutrients 2010;2(3):355-374.