Promoting Healthy Cell Membranes
To perform these functions optimally, however, the cell membrane must maintain its integrity and fluidity. Cells without a healthy membrane lose their ability to hold water and vital nutrients. They also lose their ability to communicate with other cells. Researchers believe that loss of cell to cell communication is one of the physiological events that leads to growth of cancerous tumors.
Because cell membranes are made up of fat, the integrity and fluidity of our cell membranes is determined in large part by the type of fat we eat. Remember that saturated fats are solid at room temperature, while omega 3 fats are liquid at room temperature. Researchers believe that diets containing large amounts of saturated or hydrogenated fats produce cell membranes that are hard and lack fluidity. On the other hand, diets rich in omega 3 fats produce cell membranes with a high degree of fluidity.
In addition, recent in vitro (test tube) evidence suggests when omega 3 fatty acids are incorporated into cell membranes they may help to protect against cancer, notably of the breast. They are suggested to promote breast cancer cell apoptosis via several mechanisms including: inhibiting a pro-inflammatory enzyme called cyclooxygenase 2 (COX 2), which promotes breast cancer; activating a type of receptor in cell membranes called peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor (PPAR)-a, which can shut down proliferative activity in a variety of cells including breast cells; and, increasing the expression of BRCA1 and BRCA2, tumor suppressor genes that, when functioning normally, help repair damage to DNA, thus helping to prevent cancer development.
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