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Topic summary contributed by volunteer(s): Dawn Handschuh

Arachidonic acid is an inflammatory omega-6 fatty acid. Our bodies produce this nutrient, and its excess may lead to inflammatory diseases and mood disorders.

Arachidonic acid is found in animal products, like poultry and eggs. The amount of arachidonic acid found in just one egg a day elevated arachidonic acid levels in the bloodstream, Japanese researchers learned.

Arachidonic Acid and Mental Health

Arachidonic acid may trigger brain inflammation. High blood levels have been associated with a greater risk of suicide and depressive episodes. On the other hand, diets high in carbohydrate and low in fat and protein (with little or no arachidonic acid) may be associated with lower levels of anxiety and depression, according to epidemiological studies.

In one study, overweight or diabetic employees who went on a whole food, plant-based diet reported increased energy, better sleep patterns and improved mental health compared to a control group given no diet restrictions. Their work productivity also showed improvement.

A similar subsequent study of employees at 10 corporate sites showed notable improvements in depression, anxiety and emotional well-being among those following a meat-free, plant-based diet.

Arachidonic Acid and Inflammatory Bowel Disease

Animal protein from meat and fish has also been associated with a higher risk of inflammatory bowel disease such as ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease. Arachidonic acid has been identified as one possible reason why. Even a semi-vegetarian diet has been shown to be highly beneficial in preventing relapses among patients suffering from Crohn’s disease.

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