[ eicosanoids ]
Signalling molecules made by oxidation of 20-carbon fatty acids that play an essential role in mediating inflammation. The signals and controls that depend upon eicosanoids are among the most complex in the human body.
In addition to they role in regulating inflammation, eicosanoids signal growth during physical activity, activate the immune system in the presence of toxic compounds and pathogens, and act as messengers in the central nervous system.
Omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids are the building blocks of eicosanoids and the availability of both classes of fatty acid are essential for mediation of inflammation. With the exception of GLA (gamma linolenic acid), the omega-6-derived eicosanoids contribute to pro-inflammatory response while omega-3-derived ones exhibit an anti-inflamatory response. The dietary ratio of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids is ideally considered to be 1:1. High levels of omega-6 fatty acids found in the typical modern diet correlates to increased cardiovascular disease, high triglycerides, high blood pressure, and inflamitory disorders such as arthritis.
Other eicosanoid-class molecules include prostaglandins, thromboxanes, and leukotrienes, as well as the lipoxins and eoxins. All are derived from either omega-3 or omega-6 fatty acids, following either of the pro- or anti-inflamatory pathways.