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Of Benefit and Harm - All Prostaglandins Are Not Created Equal!



Prostaglandins are groups of lipid molecules derived from fatty acids that are found in most bodily tissues and organs. Their structure appears to be somewhat simple, but they can exert various complex physiological effects in the human body. Just like hormones, they can also result in various unwanted side effects. Unlike hormones, they are not produced in a singular site but rather all throughout the body.
 
Within the physical being they act as receptors, each with a different response, depending on the Prostaglandin type, producing (at the very least influencing) a wide array of processes. They regulate inflammatory mediation and affect hormone regulation. Calcium movement and intra-ocular reduction are also associated with prostaglandin function. They cause constriction or dilation in vascular smooth muscle cells as well as the aggregation or dis-aggregation of platelets. Never limited in uses, they also influence cell growth, sensitize spinal neurons to pain, induce labour, act on the hypothalamus to produce fever, and increase glomerular filtration rate.
 
It is important to note that there are various types of prostaglandins. Prostaglandin E1 is considered exceptional as it prevents blood platelets from adhering to form blood clots, thus effectively preventing potential heart attacks and strokes. It also relaxes blood vessels, improving circulation and lowering blood pressure. It even plays a critical role in the immune and endocrine systems. It reduces inflammation, increases the production of T-Cells, and facilitates the effectiveness of insulin.
 
On the other hand, Prostaglandin E2 is recognized as the ‘bad’ Prostaglandin. In an effect opposite to Prostaglandin E1, it adversely promotes platelet aggregation. High levels of Prostaglandin E2 can increase the risk for heart attack and stroke due to its inherent blood clot formations. An unhealthy diet that is high in saturated fats increases the levels of Prostaglandin E2. It makes the kidneys retain sodium, leading to water retention, and finally inflammation. Oddly enough, it is also well known for its role in sexual arousal. In fact, research has shown that Prostaglandin E2 encourages masculine sex behavior. [1]
 
On hand to prevent the harmful effects and production of E2 is Prostaglandin E3, which is derived from Omega-3 and has a function similar to that of Prostaglandin E1. Whether they’re beneficial to us or not, all prostaglandins serve a purpose. They all fulfill respective roles that are integral to our physiology.

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