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Arachidonic acid is a fatty acid most commonly found in peanut oil that is responsible for muscle tissue inflammation. It is a polyunsaturated omega-6 fatty acid that includes an organic chain of 20 carbons atoms and is also found inside the human body, particularly in the muscles, liver, and brain.
Due to its muscle inflammation properties, arachidonic acid is most widely sold as a beneficial bodybuilding supplement in order to speed up muscle gain (1). In other cases, it is sold as a treatment for depression in the form of fish oils (2).
Arachidonic acid should be not confused with linoleic acid since each differs in its arrangement of carbon atoms and characteristics. The following is a detailed guide to arachidonic acid, its benefits, and its side effects.
Arachidonic acid is both, produced naturally by your body, and provided as supplements. For natural growth, linoleic acid, which is found in many vegetable oils, gets converted into gamma-linoleic acid, which is then turned into arachidonic acid.
Arachidonic acid leads to an increase in the production of eicosanoids that help raise immunity and inflammatory responses in your body.
Whenever you take an arachidonic acid supplement, the increase in amount will have a direct impact on the growth of eicosanoids, leading to higher inflammation.
Increasing arachidonic acid through natural means can be done through dietary changes. Consuming food such as eggs, fish, and meat contain high amounts of arachidonic acid.
How you intend to use arachidonic acid will depend on what you want to use it for.
If you are into bodybuilding and want to enhance muscle gain, you can use a range between 1000mg and 2000mg and at least 45 minutes prior to a workout.
For best advice, you should consult a medical physician and start with a lower dose to observe your body’s responses. Just make sure that every two training days are followed by a recovery day.
Benefits of arachidonic acid
The many perceived benefits of arachidonic acid, such as overcoming depression, increase muscle mass, and treating arthritis, are consistent with the findings of the wide number of studies conducted.
In the case of muscle gain, studies have shown that an increase in arachidonic acid raises the anaerobic capacity and causes the muscle fibers to thicken as a result of greater protein synthesis (3), (4).
Bodybuilders use arachidonic acid supplements in order to induce inflammation in their muscle tissues, forcing their muscle to grow in greater size and shape.
It has been found that arachidonic acid’s characteristic of causing small amount of inflammation help muscles contract and become larger. This also makes it helpful for those who wish to lose weight and gain strength through resistance training.
Trainers who can benefit most from arachidonic acid supplements are those who have reached training plateaus and won’t to shock their muscles to make greater gains.
Researchers found that arachidonic acid has elements that can alleviate symptoms of depression and reverse negative signals in the brain. Arachidonic acid has also been shown to thin out blood that can counter depression a lot more efficiently.
Fish oils are commonly sold as supplements rich in omega-3 fatty acids in order to overcome depression. However, fish oil may not necessarily be rich with omega-3 fatty acids; it all depends on what types of fish have been used to produce the oil and whether the fish had access to a proper habitat.
Therefore, you should always be more cautious about fish oil supplements.
More importantly, arachidonic acid is also associated with treating rheumatoid arthritis (7).
The study found that participants who took a diet rich in fish oil showed a reduction in swollen joints. This has led researchers to conclude that a diet rich in arachidonic acid can be very effective for treating arthritis.
Side effects of arachidonic acid
Some harmful effects of arachidonic acid can be found in those who have pre-existing inflammatory conditions.
In other words, if you suffer from arthritis, eczema, breast tenderness, or diabetes, it is advisable to consult a trained medical physician so that you can ensure it does not lead to harmful effects such as lower the impact of certain medicines.
However, a more worrying side-effect is that it can upset the balance of omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids. This has severe negative effects pertaining to immune and cardiovascular health.
The human body needs to have an omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids balance ratio of 1:1. If there are too many omega-6 fatty acids as a result of arachidonic acid supplements, it can cause your body to become omega-3 deficiency.
Some of these symptoms include dry skin, brittle, hair, peeling nails, frequent urination, insomnia, concentration problems, and mood swings (8).
If you are experiencing any one of these symptoms deficiencies, chances are that you may have an omega-3 deficiency; you overcome it through various chances to your diet and lifestyle.
In other cases, having an excess of omega-6 fatty acids can lead to severe illnesses and diseases, among of which are cardiovascular disease, asthma, cancer, autoimmune disease, obesity, irritable bowel syndrome, and more.
As with any beneficial supplement, you should be wary of consuming too mugh arachidonic acid. As an omega-6 fatty acid, consuming it in large concentrations can lead to an imbalance in fatty acids that can cause you to become omega-3 deficient.
For this reason, it is advisable that you consult a doctor so that you are medically fit for taking arachidonic acid supplements.
Summary: There are significant benefits associated with arachidonic acid. It helps promote muscle mass and reduce weight, alleviates depression symptoms, and also eases arthritis pain by relieving sore joints and tendons.