ARA (Arachidonic acid)

ARA is a natural fatty acid found in certain foods and is also produced in the body.

What are its health benefits?

ARA or arachidonic acid is essential to life in very small amounts. The arachidonic acid pathway is one of the main mechanisms for the production of pain and inflammation, as well as controlling homeostasis (temperature and pH regulation).

Its key function is to build inflammatory hormones responsible for the repair and growth of muscle tissue. Without sufficient ARA, for example in bodybuilding, one loses the short-term inflammation needed for building muscle tissue. ARA supplementation is effective for the repair, recovery and growth of muscle tissue after workouts.

ARA is also essential for foetal and infant development.

Do you have a deficiency?

Symptoms of an arachidonic acid deficiency include:

  • Dry, scaly and itchy skin
  • Hair loss
  • Dandruff
  • Infertility
  • Gastrointestinal disturbances
  • Food intolerances

ARA deficiency has also reportedly been associated with Alzheimer’s disease and bipolar disorder.

Find it in these foods

Your body obtains arachidonic acid from the omega-6 fatty acids found in vegetable oils, nuts and seeds. Only five to ten percent of your total daily kilojoule intake should be made up of omega-6 fatty acids to avoid potential health risks such as heart disease

Foods rich in ARA include:

  • Fatty red meats
  • Poultry
  • Egg yolks
  • Organ meats

If you do eat red meat, especially grilled meat, try to remove as much fat as possible.

Recommended dietary allowance (RDA)

While there is no RDA, ARA supplementation in daily dosages of 1 000 to 1 500mg has been well tolerated in clinical trials. People with cancer, inflammatory diseases and pregnant women should not take ARA supplementation.

Know the overdose risks

The human body needs ARA in small amounts, but an arachidonic acid overdose can be toxic. To avoid an excessive intake:

  • Reduce the amount of omega-6 fats and trans-fatty acids in your diet.
  • Use olive oil in your cooking instead of other common vegetable oils.
  • Do not buy products with trans-fats in them.
  • Keep your insulin levels low and stable throughout the day.
  • Eat egg yolks in moderation.

Ensure you discuss dietary supplementation with your Clicks pharmacist to avoid the potential for side effects and adverse interactions with medications.

The accuracy of this information was checked and approved by Clicks' pharmacist Waheed Abdurahman in February 2015