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The Fats of Life

Essential Fatty Acids in Health and Disease

Glen D. Lawrence

Publication Year: 2010

The Fats of Life delineates the importance of essential fatty acids, with a focus on distinctions between omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acid variants. The chemical and biochemical characteristics of these fatty acids and their metabolism to a vast array of potent bioactive messengers are described in the context of their potential effects on general health and impact on various diseases and neurological disorders. Glen D. Lawrence addresses in detail the capacity for polyunsaturated fatty acids to influence asthma, atherosclerosis, heart disease, inflammation, cancer, and immunity.

Published by: Rutgers University Press


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pp. v-vi

List of Figures

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pp. vii-viii

List of Tables

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pp. ix

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pp. xi-xiv

I had the good fortune to collaborate with several scientists on a wide range of research topics in the early 1980s, when I worked in the laboratory of Gerald Cohen at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York. My research focus was lipid peroxidation and the oxidative destruction of polyunsaturated fatty acids in cell membranes...


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pp. xv-xvi

Part One: Nutritional, Chemical, and Physiological Properties of Dietary Fats

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pp. 1-69

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1. The Dietary Fat Doctrine

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pp. 3-14

In the early twentieth century the major concern was whether diets provided sufficient calories and nutrients to ward off infections and disease. When antibiotics were introduced in the 1930s, those with access to these lifesaving drugs had longer and more productive lives. As a result of pushing the average life span ever higher...

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2. Lipid Terminology, Structure, and Function

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pp. 15-32

The purpose of this chapter is to give some of the basics regarding biochemical properties of lipids and the terminology used to describe them. It is intended to introduce readers to several classes of lipids and the subtle distinctions that make these classes different from one another. Lipid refers to oily or fatty biological substances that are not soluble in water but dissolve in other ...

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3. Some Dietary Fats are Essential

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pp. 33-43

The idea that certain foods contain substances that relieve the symptoms of what we recognize today as vitamin deficiencies dates back to ancient times. An Egyptian papyrus (Eber’s Papyrus) containing a medical treatise dating to about 1500 B.C.E. recommends eating liver to cure the condition of night blindness. We know today that night blindness...

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4. Signals, Messengers, and Reponses

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pp. 44-59

There are countless signals impinging on cells all the time in order to keep them in synchrony with the rest of the body. They also respond to various changes in environment and nutritional status. Whether a cell responds to a particular signal or not depends on whether that cell has the equipment to respond. Cellular equipment refers to proteins, which are responsible for most ...

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5. Oxidation and Lipid Peroxidation

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pp. 60-69

Oxygen is essential for survival. Without sufficient oxygen, as a result of suffocation or because the heart stops pumping oxygenated blood through our arteries, we can die within minutes. When life in the form of simple unicellular organisms evolved, there was virtually no oxygen in the earth’s atmosphere. It was not until photosynthetic...

Part Two: Dietary Fats in Health and Disease

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pp. 71-180

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6. Atherosclerosis

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pp. 73-87

There seems to be a pervasive popular belief that cholesterol clogs the arteries, with cholesterol buildup eventually becoming so great that blood flow to the heart or brain becomes blocked, causing heart attack or stroke. Biomedical research over the past fifteen to twenty years has shattered this model of cardiovascular disease. Indeed, half of all...

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7. Risk Factors in Cardiovascular Disease

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pp. 88-95

There has been much made of the association between dietary saturated fats and high serum cholesterol levels, particularly LDL-cholesterol. Although high serum cholesterol was identified as a major risk factor for heart disease in the Framingham Heart Study, several international studies have not found a good correlation between serum cholesterol and death from all causes. Generally...

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8. Lipid-Lowering Drugs

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pp. 96-106

Akira Endo was not yet a teenager when Alexander Fleming won the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1945 for his discovery of antibiotics from the mold Penicillium notatum in 1928. Endo was fascinated by Fleming’s work and got a job with the Sankyo Chemical Company isolating enzymes from fungi and molds for processing fruit juices...

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9. Inflammation, Anti-inflammatory Drugs, and Lipid Mediators

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pp. 107-121

Willow bark was known since ancient times to reduce fever and decrease pain. An active extract of willow was isolated in the late eighteenth century and given the name salicin, from the Latin Salix for willow, or trees in the Salicaceae family. In the early nineteenth century salicylic acid was identified as the active component and was neutralized to form potassium or sodium salicylate salts. ...

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10. Cancer and Immunity

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pp. 122-137

The products of lipid peroxidation are many and can have a wide range of biochemical and physiological effects. Some of the products are known to promote cancer. Lipid peroxidation is a free-radical process, and the reactive oxidation products involved can spread to other venues to wreak havoc throughout the cell where lipid peroxidation is taking place...

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11. Neurological Development, Memory, and Learning

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pp. 138-151

The human brain is, without a doubt, the most complex structure we can contemplate. It seems ironic that we use this same organ in its utmost capacity to begin to understand its own complexity. Unlike most organs of the body that are relatively homogeneous in their structure, composition, and functions, the brain is extremely heterogeneous. It consists of billions of cells in numerous ...

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12. Functional Disorders of the Nervous System

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pp. 152-165

Neurological disorders can be placed into two broad categories, neurodegenerative diseases and functional disorders. The neurodegenerative diseases are characterized by gross loss of specific types of cells within specific tracts of the nervous system, with inflammation as a common thread that ties them together...

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13. Neurodegenerative Diseases

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pp. 166-180

The neurodegenerative diseases seem to have in common a free-radical-mediated destruction of cellular components, particularly cell membranes. All seem to have inflammation involved. Apoptosis is also prevalent in most of these diseases, but this programmed or systematic suicide of cells appears to be a mechanism for preserving the organism when there is damage to specific cells...

Part Three: Influence of Diet on Overall Health

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pp. 181-213

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14. Obesity

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pp. 183-200

The incidence of obesity has escalated dramatically in the United States in the past twenty years to reach epidemic proportions. This obesity epidemic defines a generation with increased risks of incurring a wide range of unhealthy effects, including high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, coronary heart disease, stroke, gall bladder disease...

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15. Dietary Choices for Comprehensive Health

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pp. 201-213

Cell membranes were once thought to be relatively static barriers separating a cell’s surroundings from its inner workings. Today we know cell membranes are bustling with activity. Long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids are vital membrane components that serve in cellular communication. These fatty acids are released from membranes when certain signals are received by a cell and are...

Appendix A. Fundamentals of Chemical Bonding and Polarity

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pp. 215-218

Appendix B. Fatty Acid Composition of Dietary Fats and Oils

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pp. 219-221

Appendix C. Chemical Structures of Eicosanoids

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pp. 222-224

Appendix D. Human Lipoproteins: Their Components, Properties, and Associated Proteins

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pp. 225-227

Appendix E. Overview of Neuronal Processes

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pp. 228-233


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pp. 235-247


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pp. 249-269


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pp. 271-277

E-ISBN-13: 9780813549194
E-ISBN-10: 0813549191
Print-ISBN-13: 9780813546773
Print-ISBN-10: 081354677X

Page Count: 296
Illustrations: 51 illustrations, 9 tables
Publication Year: 2010