Doctor's Note

For more on arachidonic acid, check out these videos:
Titanium Dioxide & Inflammatory Bowel Disease
Fighting the Blues With Greens?

Check out my other videos on arachidonic acid

For more context, also see my associated blog posts: Inflammation, Diet, and “Vitamin S”The Most Anti-Inflammatory MushroomHow To Boost Serotonin NaturallyTreating Crohn’s Disease With DietEating Green to Prevent Cancer; and How Tumors Use Meat to Grow.

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  • Karen LaVine

    So if rheumatologists really care about their patients, they should be discussing a whole foods vegan diet during every patient visit. The American Arthritis foundation does have 6 brief articles posted on its web site under the heading “Food and Inflammation”. They are not recommending a vegan diet at this point, but at least they are making progress in that direction.

  • Michael Greger M.D.

    Please feel free to post any ask-the-doctor type questions here in the comments section and I’d be happy to try to answer them. Check out the other videos on arachidonic acid! Also, there are 1,449 subjects covered in my other videos–please feel free to explore them!

    • Nina1965

      A close friend was diagnosed with Sarcoidosis (lungs) a few weeks ago. He has been taking Cortisone tablets since and only yesterday a specialist confirmed that he should continue this treatment for another six months – at a dose of 10mg every day. I am truly concerned that this will cause more harm to his body and is only masking the illness. Are there any conclusive treatments to this condition? As a Vegan myself, I am trying to help him look at a dietary change, but he is not so open to the idea, as it all appears “too hard”. Any comments would be greatly appreciated.

      • DrDons

        Hi Nina, Sorry to hear about your friends diagnosis. Sarcoid is a complex inflammatory disorder of unknown cause with a variable course making it difficult to treat. Treatment with cortisone, an anti inflammatory hormone, is an accepted treatment and s/he should continue to work with their physician. There are side effects for all treatments. I know of no studies on nutrition and Sarcoid. That said, if I was diagnosed with Sarcoid I would certainly follow a well designed low fat plant based diet for two main reasons. First,I would want to avoid as many other chronic diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, obesity, cancer that I could. Second it would seem prudent to provide the body with the best nutrients to heal. Beyond following a plant based diet with B12 supplementation I would recommend that consideration be given to decrease the the omega 6(inflammatory)/ omega 3(anti inflammatory) ratio in the diet. Dr. Greger has posted videos which help explain this somewhat confusing area.

    • Jaimee Pettigrew

      Thank you so much for working so hard and bringing us knowledge. I am a nurse but my really education came from here! I am curious to know if you believe that depression is autoimmune in nature? I have suffered since childhood with repeat infections as a result of eating masses of dairy whilst having a undiagnosed dairy allergy & I experience depression from age 7 and was then diagnosed with Crohn’s age 19. I want to believe that changing my diet will cure me (as it has for my Crohn’s (drug-free remission 2 yrs+)). Dr Greger, I also took SSRIs for 14 years under the instructions of my GP (I am now 30 and weaned of all medication ovet 3 months ago) and I am now experiencing sensory nerve pain – tingling at night and I have read that SSRIs cause nerve damage …. I guess there is no way to know how much damage has been done but I would really love to hear your thoughts. I really appreciate all your hard work!

    • Maggi

      Very good! Thanks

  • DrSteve

    Yes, arachidonic acid in the body affects mood and inflammation. This is mediated through proinflammatory eicosanoids called leukotrienes (series 4). Dietary arachidonic acid is only one source and not the largest source. Arachidonic acid is produced in the body from linoleic acid (LA) by three enzymes. More arachidonic acid is made if the ratio of LA to ALA is larger than 3. Endogenous arachidonic acid is a large source, so the amounts and ratio of the essential fatty acids need to be controlled – along with dietary arachidonic acid.

    • BPCveg


      I think you raise an important point about there being at least two pathways for increases in AA in the body, namely, dietary intake and metabolism of LA.

      But, you go on to suggest that latter is a more important pathway. I wonder if you have a primary source to back that up ?

      My sources seem to suggest otherwise…

      Vegetarians and vegans seem to have a poorer ratio of LA:ALA than omnivores (see for example Davis and Melina, Becoming Raw). Yet they have a lower level of AA in the body (see Fisher et al., Arch Intern Med 1986;146:1193-1197). In fact, Fisher states “However, the increased ingestion of LA by vegetarians did not appear to affect the levels of platelet membrane AA. This would support the prior observation that human platelets have a limited capacity to perform the conversion of LA to AA.”

      Thus, my sources suggest that the dietary intake of AA (directly from animal fats) may have a more important effect on body levels of AA than the LA to AA conversion. This would support the conclusions of Dr.Greger’s last two videos that the mood improvement and reduced inflammation seen in vegetarians may be associated with lower AA intake.

  • DrSteve

    In a pure vegetarian, all of the arachidonic acid (AA) is made inside the body. Our bodies can make enough AA even when levels of LA are quite low – even 2% of calories. Deficiencies of AA are very rare. Like cholesterol, all of our AA is capable of being made inside our bodies and none is required in the diet.

    We make just the right amount of EPA and AA to balance, through eicosanoids, our immune response and inflammation. Dietary AA or EPA will throw these delicately balanced eicosanoid precursors off balance. Note that dietary gamma-linolenic acid will also cause excess amounts of AA to be stored in membrane phospholipids. Note that dietary DHA will retroconvert to EPA and also throw the balance off.

    It is best to support the metabolic machinery of the body to make the perfect balance of AA and EPA as described in Chapter 11 of “Understanding Dietary Fats and Oils” (you may Google this title).

  • I find this video to be delightfully amusing!



  • Leana

    I have a question Dr.
    I’ve had rheumatoid arthritis since I was about 24 years of age. I also suffer from muscle spasms on my lower back and have a slipped disk which causes my legs to fall asleep occasionally. I tried physical therapy and that didn’t work, so one day, I switched to acupuncture and surprisingly it helped a whole lot. I was advised by a patient on one of my acupuncture visits to cut on acidic foods such as tomatoes, potatoes, bell peppers and eggplants to decrease the pain related to inflammatory diseases, so I did. One day I was so fed up with my arthritis pains that I decided to go on a raw diet and surprisingly, on the 3rd day, the pain that constantly bothered me on my shoulder was gone. I was encouraged by a friend to go Vegan, so until this day I still am vegan, almost 8 months now, I feel great and lost a few old pounds ;) So, my question to you Dr. Greger is, do I still need to stay away from acidic foods or does the combination of these vegetables plus meat consumption trigger something in the body to cause pain?

    • Toxins

      Avoiding “acidic” plant foods is not necessary. I don’t know of any science supporting the idea that acidic foods will promote rheumatoid arthritis. There are many studies that show that a simple vegan diet can reverse this disease.

      • kimi slayden

        How I wish this were true… however, it will depend greatly on the nature of the beast. Mycoplasma fermentens, for example, is an excellent potential culprit, as well as many other microbes we have not yet been able to view with current technology. It is true that food affects our inflammatory response one way or the other. As a long time vegetarian and RArthritic, I have learned by trial and error. If it sets me off I avoid it. The most recent foodstuff I gave up with the greatest positive response was- wheat! Almost 1 year later I can see my left elbow and many finger joints again.

  • Leana

    Thank you TOXINS!!! =)


    I found a 9700 word article on essential fatty acids, and one stands out as in opposition to this video, here it is: Arachidonic Acid Deficiency• Dry, scaly, and itching skin• Hair loss• Dandruff• Reproductive difficulties in both males and females• Gastrointestinal disturbances• Food intolerances• Kidney disease• Inability to maintain weight• Poor immunity• Poor growth• Inflammation” I have been long on omega 3 and low on omega 6, which is unusual since it’s most often the other way around, and I have most of the symptoms listed above. Insofar as going vegetarian, been there, done that and the results were devastating. Here is how it is, if Vegan diets make you happy, healthy and strong, go for it, and the same with vegetarian, omnivorous and carnivorous. However, it would be impossible to survive in Alaska or the Arctic on a vegetarian died, and the same for about 1000 miles due south. Where the vegetarian idea came from is kind of like where Mormonism came from, an idea popped into someone’s head and in vegetarians it was India. Why? Animal protection mostly, but many vegetarians ate fish, in India many eat diary, and so forth. But this arachidonic acid thing is the main focus. How many sources, supposedly science or medical based say too little arachidonic acid is harmful? Many. too many to count. The idea that one should sustain from such fatty acids is dangerous. Here’s something from Charles Darwin, in The Voyage of the Beagle, wrote: We were here able to buy some biscuit. I had now been several days without tasting any thing besides meat: I did not at all dislike this new regimen; but I felt as if it would only have agreed with me with hard exercise. I have heard that patients in England, when desired to confine themselves exclusively to an animal diet, even with the hope of life before their eyes, have hardly been able to endure it. Yet the Gaucho in the Pampas, for months together, touches nothing but beef. But they eat, I observe, a very large proportion of fat, which is of a less animalized nature; and they particularly dislike dry meat, such as that of the Agouti. Dr. Richardson, also, has remarked, “that when people have fed for a long time solely upon lean animal food, the desire for fat becomes so insatiable, that they can consume a large quantity of unmixed and even oily fat without nausea:” this appears to me a curious physiological fact. It is, perhaps, from their meat regimen that the Gauchos, like other carnivorous animals, can abstain long from food. I was told that at Tandeel, some troops voluntarily pursued a party of Indians for three days, without eating or drinking.[5]

    In more recent times, it appears probable that Christopher McCandless, subject of the 1996 book—and later film—Into the Wild died of rabbit starvation. The point being, eat lard, some butter, olive oil in small quantities, flax seed oil in even smaller quantities, coconut oil, red palm oil and beef tallow, all the above from organic and grass fed sources. I knew man, or met him, who was 102 years old and had a girl friend who was somewhat younger and said complimentary things regarding his “vigor.” Point being, drug companies who push Viagra would go broke if they had to rely on this type of man. Life is fun.

    • Toxins

      Arachadonic Acid is important for the body. Omega 6 converts into arachadonic acid. Omega 6 is more than abundant in the plant food food supply, in fact, the issue is getting TOO much omega 6. TOO much omega 6 counters the enzymes used to convert omega 3 to DHA. Arachadonic acid deficiency is not an issue

  • Michael Greger M.D.

    For some context, please check out my associated blog post Inflammation, Diet, and “Vitamin S”!

  • Andrea


    mother has been diagnosed with Lupus. She is on a medication to stop
    it affecting her blood. While I can not do much about her medication
    I was hoping there might be something she can do with her diet? The
    biggest issue is her skin. It becomes itchy, red and cracks.

    have looked for information about lifestyle changes to help manage
    Lupus but nothing has come up.

    information you can offer would be a big help.


    •  Sorry to hear about your mothers diagnosis. The diet can have a significant effect on the many of the autoimmune disorders of which Lupus is one. Many of the studies have been done on Rheumatoid Arthritis see You can also read two case studies about lupus patients who recovered on Dr. John McDougall’s website under his “StarMcDougallers” see the stories by Vanessa and Mayra. Another excellent resource is Jill Harrington’s book, The Lupus Recovery Diet. Going on a plant based diet is the first step but some patients with autoimmune disorders also have plant triggers for their diseases. These can be a challenge to figure out. Dr. McDougall’s December 2002 newsletter article, Diet for the Desperate, outlines a practical approach to help sort out these issues. His newsletters are also available for free on his website. Good luck.

      • Andrea

         Thank you so very much :)

    • Marjorie

      My husband serious dry, crack skin problem in his scalp and face was cure applying organic coconut oil, he uses every morning like a lotion
      Hope this can help your mother.

  • Azz

    The original title of the third paper shown in Dr. Greger’s video was
    “Anti-inflammatory effects of a low arachidonic acid diet and fish oil in patients with rheumatoid arthritis.”Why was fish oil edited out?

  • I have been vegan for 6 years now. For 17 months I thought I had acid reflux disease, but after extensive testing my doctor has concluded that I have garden variety IBS. In an effort to be all-natural and avoid medication (which had horrible side effects) have been taking digestive enzymes, probiotics and avoiding “trigger foods” for a little over a year. The heartburn symptoms and nausea have decreased considerably, but I still experience bloating and feeling of being overly stuffed often. My doctor suggested I try a Low-FODMAP diet. What are your thoughts on that?

  • Mela Rossa

    This video is HIGHLY MISLEADING. Correlation isn’t causation.

    Arachidonic Acid doesn’t cause inflammation. The toxins in the animal products cause inflammation and also the oxidized lipids in seed oils cause inflammation.

    Eat whole foods.

  • Terese Covey

    I was looking on your website for any information on Malonic Acid, and Malonate-Free Foods. Could there possibly be a future video and/or article on the subject?

  • vegan minstrel

    Is there enough arachidonic acid & palmitic acid in peanuts to justify limiting their consumption?

  • Dorothy

    I have MS and severe eczema. I have read that there can be a depletion of AA caused by the high levels of immune activity and if so and there are insufficient antioxidants in the diet it can result in eczema a classic omega 6 deficiency. What is your view please

  • Jaimee Pettigrew

    Dear Dr Greger, thank you so much for working so hard and bringing us knowledge. I am a nurse but my really education came from here! I am curious to know if you believe that depression is autoimmune in nature? I have suffered since childhood with repeat infections as a result of eating masses of dairy whilst having a undiagnosed dairy allergy & I experience depression from age 7 and was then diagnosed with Crohn’s age 19. I want to believe that changing my diet will cure me (as it has for my Crohn’s (drug-free remission 2 yrs+)). Dr Greger, I also took SSRIs for 14 years under the instructions of my GP (I am now 30 and weaned of all medication ovet 3 months ago) and I am now experiencing sensory nerve pain – tingling at night and I have read that SSRIs cause nerve damage …. I guess there is no way to know how much damage has been done but I would really love to hear your thoughts. I really appreciate all your hard work!

  • gsmullennix

    My homocystine level has moved from 12 to 16. I have tried to fight it with Methyl Folate and vit B (cobalamin). I eat eggs daily and chicken frequently. Is the correlation high enough for me to give up my eggs?

  • Susie

    This is what I read in my daily (UK) newspaper this morning!


    Vegetarian diet ‘raises risk of heart disease and cancer’

    Over generations, vegetarianism leads to genetic mutations in populations

    Mutation makes it easier for vegetarians to absorb fatty acids from plants

    Also boosts arachidonic acid, which raises risk of heart disease and cancer

    Mutated obstructs production of omega 3 – which protects the heart

    Vegetarianism over generations can result in genetic mutations which increase the risk of heart disease and cancer.

    Researchers found a long-term vegetarian diet means populations are more likely to carry DNA that makes them vulnerable to inflammation.

    The mutation is believed to make it easier for vegetarians to absorb necessary fatty acids from plants, but also boosts their production of arachidonic acid, which increases inflammatory disease and cancer.

    This, coupled with a diet rich in vegetable oils, means the mutated gene turns fatty acids into arachidonic acid.

    The problem is also worsened because the mutation obstructs the production of Omega 3, which protects against heart disease.

    This is an increasing issue given the shift in people’s diets away from fish and nuts, which contain valuable Omega 3, to vegetable oils, which contain the unhealthier Omega 6.

    The new findings provide an explanation for previous studies which found that vegetarians were up to 40 per cent more likely to develop bowel cancer than those who eat meat.

    Until now, doctors had been confused by this research, since red meat is known to increase the risk of cancer.

    The research by Cornell University, compared hundreds of genomes from a mostly vegetarian population in Pune, India to meat eaters in Kansas, and found a notable genetic difference.

    Tom Brenna, Professor of Human Nutrition at Cornell University, said: ‘Those whose ancestry derives from vegetarians are more likely to carry genetics that more rapidly metabolise plant fatty acids.

    ‘In such individuals, vegetable oils will be converted to the more pro-inflammatory arachidonic acid, increasing the risk for chronic inflammation that is implicated in the development of heart disease, and exacerbates cancer.

    ‘The mutation appeared in the human genome long ago, and has been passed down through the human family.’

    Vegetarians are often found to be deficient in protein, iron, vitamin D, vitamin B12 and calcium, with one study showing that vegetarians had a five per cent lower bone-mineral density than those who eat meat.

    Other research, however, has said that vegetarians are less likely to suffer from diabetes, obesity and strokes.

    The study was published in the journal of Molecular Biology and Evolution.

    Please discuss!

  • Robert Conroy

    Well the thing being missed here is most all red meats are inflammatory, especially organ meats like sausages and hot dogs. The other food with the most arachidonic acid is egg yolks. Most all seafood is anti-inflammatory. In fact the most anti-inflammatory food is caviar – fish eggs. A pescatarian diet, vegan + seafood is the best diet on earth, reducing risk of multiple cancers by 46%. While vegan only 17%.
    Pescatarian is mostly seafood, veggies, fruits, nuts, and seeds. Usually no grains, dairy, or animal meats.