ALA (alpha-linolenic acid) An omega-3 fatty acid with 18 carbon atoms, considered essential because the body cannot make it from simpler substances.
Antioxidant A substance which helps to quench free radicals. Nutritive antioxidants include the vitamins E, C, and beta-carotene.
ATP (adenosine tri-phosphate) The molecule the body uses for energy. Free radicals are required to produce ATP.
DHA (docosa-hexaenoic acid) An omega-3 fatty acid with 22 carbon atoms, the most unsaturated fatty acid available in the diet, high amounts of which are in fish oils.
EPA (eicosa-pentaenoic aicd) An omega-3 fatty acid with 20 carbon atoms, found in fish oils.
Fatty Acid A molecule containing carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen atoms, together which make up building blocks of fats.
Free radical A highly unstable, reactive molecule, excessive amounts of which may damage other molecules. Some free radical activity is essential to produce ATP and fight infections.
Lipid bilayer A protective membrane surrounding every cell, consisting of two layers of phospholipids.
Omega-3 fatty acid A fatty acid with its first double bond occurring after the 3rd carbon atom. ALA, DHA, and EPA are examples.
Oxidation A chemical process where an electron is stripped from a substance, forming a free radical. Unsaturated fatty acids such as DHA are particularly susceptible to oxidation. For instance, rancidity is an oxidative process.
Phospholipid Substances making up the lipid bilayer, consisting of phosphorus and usually two fatty acids. In the brain, one or these fatty acids is often DHA. In the eyes, both are.
Prostaglandins Biochemicals which play special roles in the body, categorized into three families or series, labeled PG1, PG2, and PG3.
Synapse The region where two neurons interface, allowing them to communicate. DHA concentrations in the synaptic membranes are particularly high.
Unsaturated fatty acid A fatty acid with double bonds between some of its carbon atoms, such as DHA.
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