Polyunsaturated fatty acids have been studied a lot over the past decade — and with good reason. These fatty acids have been shown to reduce the severity of certain types of cancers, cardiovascular disease, and kidney disease. How do polyunsaturated fatty acids accomplish this? First, you need to know a little background information.
All fatty acids are made up of a chain of carbon and hydrogen atoms. Saturated fatty acids are said to be saturated with hydrogen atoms, meaning that each carbon atom is linked with a hydrogen atom. These fatty acids are bad for your health and have been linked to high cholesterol and heart disease. Unsaturated fatty acids, on the other hand, have missing hydrogen atoms — which turns out to be a good thing as far as your heath is concerned. Fatty acids with only one pair of missing hydrogen atoms are known as monounsaturated fatty acids. Polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) are missing more than one pair of hydrogen atoms.
Because of their molecular make-up, PUFA’s exert beneficial effects in the body — including, according to the results of a recent clinical trial, protecting your kidneys from damage.
Researchers examined whether feeding fish oil or flaxseed oil would have a protective effect against nephrotoxicity. In particular, they looked at a substance called arginine, which could significantly impair the ability of antioxidants in your body to do their job.
The research team found that feeding fish oil and flaxseed oil reversed negative changes in the kidneys caused by arginine. In fact, nephrotoxicity parameters lowered and enzyme activities and metabolism were improved to near control values. The antioxidant defense system was strengthened by both fish oil and flaxseed oil.
The researchers concluded that PUFA-enriched fish oil and flaxseed oil from seafood and plant sources, respectively, are similarly effective in reducing nephrotoxicity and oxidative damage.
Great news if you’re vegetarian or vegan. If you can’t get all the protective effects from fish oil, try flaxseed oil instead.