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Arachidonic acid as a supplement

Updated on October 26, 2011

Is it safe?

Well, that's a difficult question to answer. The short of it, yes. A few problems arise once you look at the "potential" ramifications. We can surmise a number of things based on the activity of AA in the human body.

To start, AA is an fatty acid. Specifically, a polyunsaturated fatty acid. It's a carboxylic acid with a twenty carbon chain containing four double bonds. I'll omit the specific molecular locations, as this is of no consequence (as far as we know now).Virtually none of this is relevant to this article, but knowledge is knowledge. This fatty acid is abundant in many necessary nutrients (like phosphatidyl choline), as well as abundant in the brain and muscles. Understanding it's role as a purported muscle builder requires understanding of the arachidonic acid cascade. Let's look at the biochemicals that are the arachidonic acid cascade. It's also important to know that anything increasing intracellular calcium may increase the activity of phospholipase A2.Inflammatory arachidonic acid is generated by the action of a low-molecular-weight secretory PLA2

Cyclooxygenase, the first enzyme that we'll look at (capsule 2) Most people won't recognize this enzyme by it's full name. It's most common name is the cox II enzyme. Oh yeah, that nasty little enzyme implicated in the inflammation and pain associated with arthritis. Cox II and peroxidase are responsible for converting arachidonic acid into prostaglandin H2, which in turn is used to produce prostaglandins, prostacyclin and thromboxanes. The latter two are not commonly associated with any so called "anabolic effect" (and for the layperson, anabolic merely means muscle building. It is not a steroid-specific term).

Peroxygenase, another important enzyme in this biomechanism. Leukotrienes are also synthesized or stimulated in this mechanism. Leukotrienes are also involved in allergic response, as well as inflammation.Leukotrienes are fatty molecules of the immune system that contribute to inflammation in asthma and allergic rhinitis. Again, while involved in the accompanying mechanisms, these are irrelevant to the anabolic effect. Still, all of this information pertains to the sensibility of using such a substance.

On the other hand, prostaglandins are associated with cell growth. This is a stretch where anabolism is concerned. It relates to protein synthesis. In that aspect, yes, it is potentially anabolic. Although certain prostaglandins are good guys. Even more, some anabolic steroids will actually drive certain prostaglandins up (trenbolone being one of them, but that's not approved for use in humans in the USA).

So, yes, one could very well expect some anabolism from the use of arachidonic acid. Personally, and this is an editorial, I choose to steerĀ  away from this supplement. I just don't think enough is known about supplemental dosing in humans. Plus, everyone that I know who has used it complains of the increase in joint pain, as well as the more intense DOMS (but that shows it's working).

To the best of my knowledge, Gaspari Nutrition was one of the first "somewhat larger" (it's run by a few guys out of a warehouse on Prospect st in Lakewood NJ- been there- that's NOT big) to utilize AA. They took the name of an anabolic steroid that was sold as a supplement, then pinned that name on this new supp. Haladrol-50 (which was a metabolite of desoxy methyltestosterone) and also NOT Gaspari's creation (enter Patrick Arnold- famed for using this drug during the BALCO years) became Halodrol Liquigels. Now they call it Halodrol MT, to lead people to believe there's Methyl Test in it again.

Prostaglandins are classified as autocrine (effecting the same cell that produced it), as well as paracrine (effecting adjacent cells), regulators. Though originally isolated from seminal fluid they do not really fit into the category of hormones, nor are they neurotransmitters, though they are still referred to as hormones by experts.

The relationship between inflammation (barring inflammatory pain) itself raises questions regarding heart disease. Many forms of heart disease are inflammatory in nature or origin. Aspirin's role in controlling heart disease is attributed in part to the control of prostaglandins.Certain aspects of this mechanism can be directly linked to heart failure. Much of this will be easier to assimilate when broken down into smaller blocks of text.

Several universities studied the affects of AA on athletes in a number of different scenarios. In a number of studies, the AA group showed improvement over the PLA group. Observations were mainly based on better muscular endurance, while some studies show improvement in short anaerobic bursts.


The discovery of COX-2 occurred in 1991, when W. L. Xie and colleagues from Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah, found the existence of two different isoforms (chemical derivatives) of the enzyme cyclooxygenase.

The names prostaglandin synthase and prostaglandin endoperoxide synthetase are still used to refer to COX.


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