Shielding cells from the ravaging effects of oxygen free radicals is one route to a long cellular Youth; maintaining and repairing cells after the free radicals that pierced that shield have done their inevitable dirty work is another.
The most understood way that free radicals damage cells is through attacks on the DNA, the cell proteins, and the cell membranes. Fatty acids and phospholipids are specific fat like compounds that all of our cell membranes are composed of to a significant extent, and therefore they are needed in order for the cells to maintain and repair their cell membranes.
That is because cell membranes are not stable entities; instead, they are constantly in a flux of discarding old parts and those damaged by free radicals and replacing them with new parts. Therefore, we need to keep them well supplied with the parts that they need, which include certain phospholipids and fatty acids.
There are other good reasons for maximizing our consumption of certain fatty acids and phospholipids. One reason is because Americans are consuming lots of “abnormal” fatty acids, called transfatty acids, through high intakes of partially hydrogenated vegetable oils, such as those in margarine.
Some scientists believe that when our cells go about their daily “upkeep and recycling” of their cell membranes, they may be using these transfatty acids in place of the natural fatty acids and phospholipids. It is not yet known what the long-term effects of this might be, but I personally don’t want to give my cell membranes the wrong raw materials to keep themselves in top shape.
In addition, it has been shown that simply having low intakes of normal fatty acids and phospholipids in our diets is correlated with abnormal neurological function, including depression and decreased cognitive functions. A phospholipid called phosphatidylcholine (PPC) is very important in maintaining the integrity of the cell membranes of the liver cells that are involved in the daily detoxification of noxious substances we bring into our body, and fatty acids known as omega-3 fatty acids appear to provide several benefits to our bodies.