Essential fatty acids (EFAs) are fats that are essential to the diet because the body cannot produce them. Essential fatty acids are extremely important nutrients for health. They are present in every healthy cell in the body, and are critical for the normal growth and functioning of the cells, muscles, nerves, and organs. EFAs are also used by the body to produce a class of hormone-like substances called prostaglandins, which are key to many important processes.
Deficiencies of EFAs are linked to a variety of health problems, including major ones such as heart disease, cancer, and diabetes. It has been estimated that as many as 80% of American people may consume insufficient quantities of EFAs.
There are two basic types of EFA’s – Omega 3 and Omega 6.
Omega 3 Essential Fatty Acids: Alpha-linolenic, eicosapentaenoic (EPA) acid and Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA).
Omega 3 EFA’s are found in fresh, deep water fish, fish oils, and certain vegetable oils, such as canola, flaxseed and walnut oil.
It is believed that the Omega 3 EFA’s offer the following health benefits:
- May be beneficial for heart health,
- May lower blood pressure,
- May be beneficial in the prevention and treatment of joint diseases, such as arthritis,
- May provide an anti inflammatory response on a cellular level, helping with inflammation,
- May improve skin and hair,
- May assist with skin disorders, such as excema and psoriasis
- May aid in the treatment of depression,
- May help improve brain function and development.
Omega 6 EFA’s: linoleic and gamma-linoleic acids
Omega 6 EFA’s are found in raw nuts, seeds and legumes and in unsaturated vegetable oils, such as borage, grape seed, primrose, sesame and soybean oil.
A balance of omega-3 and omega-6 EFAs in the diet is recommended by experts. Americans typically consume higher quantities of omega-6 EFAs, because these are found in meat, animal products, and common cooking oils. Research has shown that too many omega-6 EFAs in the diet can lead to the imbalanced production of prostaglandins, which may contribute to health problems. Experts recommend that omega-3 and omega-6 EFAs be present in the diet in a ratio of around one to three. Americans consume a ratio as high as one to 40. Thus, the need for greater amounts of omega-3 EFAs in the diet has increased.
To increase the amount of omega 3 in the diet, adding more food sources and supplementing with a good omega 3 fish oil capsule or oil is a good idea. There are many good sources of omega 3 supplements on the marketplace and Hoye’s Pharmacy carries a wide assortment. These supplements are available in a capsule, enteric coated capsule, liquid or delicious flavored smoothie style.
If you are one of those people who get the “burp” when consuming fish oils, try using an enteric coated capsule, or freeze the capsule and take it frozen. This lets the capsule get down to the lower part of the intestines, which often eliminates the after taste or burp effect.
When purchasing fish oils, look for a brand that has been properly distilled and tested. Cheaper is not always better with these types of products. EFA products should be produced by “cold or modified expeller pressing,” which means that they were produced without damaging temperatures or pressure. Products should be packaged in light-resistant containers, because sunlight damages EFAs. Packages should include manufacturing and expiration dates, in order to assure freshness. Most of the quality brands will be tested by independent third party labs to assure purity and potency and assays are available for review. Brands that are not tested may contain high levels of mercury, toxins, bacteria molds, and other contaminants. Ask about the manufacturing process of the brands you are purchasing.
Just remember that Essential Fatty Acids are Essential For All!