Essential Fatty Acids – Why your body needs them

essential fatty acidsLet’s understand these fats a little.

The entire body is made from food, water, air and light. Foods you need are protein, carbohydrates and fat with vitamins and minerals.

What is a fat?

Fat is substance made from molecules of hydrogen, carbon and a little oxygen. What kind of fat it is depends on the different combinations of these molecules.

What are the Essential Fatty Acids?

There are twenty different needed fatty acids in your body, but they are all made from two: linoleic acid and linolenic acid. These two fatty acids are essential. You must get them from the foods you eat because your body cannot manufacture them. Thus, essential fatty acids are the building blocks for all the other fats in your body.

Essential fatty acids are necessary to make cell membranes and for many of the important hormones and other chemical messengers that tell your body what to do.

Another name for linoleic fatty acid family is omega-6 fatty acids. The linolenic fatty acids are often called omega-3 fatty acids. The names come from the way the molecules are strung together.

Omega-3 and Omega-6 essential fatty acids are especially important for making prostaglandins in your body. Prostaglandins are hormone-like substances that regulate many activities in your body including inflammation, pain, and swelling (some cause swelling and others relieve it). They also play a role in controlling your blood pressure, your heart, your kidneys, your digestive system, and body temperature. They are important for allergic reactions, blood clotting and making other hormones.

Fatty acids are also natural blood thinners; they can prevent blood clots, which can lead to heart attack and stroke. Essential fatty acids contain natural anti-inflammatory compounds that can relive the symptoms of arthritis and autoimmune diseases. In addition, a diet low in essential fatty acids could result in skin problems, such as dandruff, eczema, splitting nails and dull brittle hair.

Fatty acids influence the structure of the cells lining the intestinal tract, as well as the “villi” through which absorption of nutrients takes place. They increase the thickness and surface area of the digestive-absorptive cells that line the inside of our intestine. This results in more effective digestion, better absorption of nutrients, less absorption of allergens, and better health.

More importantly, numerous studies have shown that compounds found in essential fatty acids can block tumor formation in animals, and test tube studies have documented that omega-3 fatty acids can inhibit the growth of human breast cancer cells.

Your brain is actually 60 percent fat – and DHA (an Omega-3 essential fatty acid) is the most abundant fat in your brain. It’s also the most abundant fat in breast milk, since babies need it to nourish their growing brains and eye development. This Omega-3 fat seems to be important mostly for connecting brain cells to each other and making sure the transmission of brain signals get through right. It is also found in high concentration in the retina of the eye.

Low levels of this Omega-3 fatty acid have been linked to an increase in dementia, mood changes, memory loss, and visual problems. In a Swedish study, elderly patients with Alzheimer’s disease were found to have lower levels of this than healthy older people. Studies done at Purdue University showed that children diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder had lower levels of these essential fatty acids.

What are the signs and symptoms of a deficiency of Essential Fatty Acids? (Omega 3)

Skin Irritation and dryness

Sensitive skin, dry skin, or even an increase in acne may be a sign of omega-3 deficiency.

Hair Changes

Omega 3 helps the body maintain moisture in the skin and keeps the hair healthy. Changes in hair texture or thinning may indicate a low omega-3 status.

Dry Eyes

Omega-3 fats play a role in eye health, including maintaining eye moisture.

Joint Pain, Join Stiffness

Often a symptom autoimmune condition such as arthritis as well as injuries, old injuries, bacterial or viral infections, and other inflammatory conditions. Omega 3 has an anti-inflammatory effect.


Omega 3 is an essential nutrient for the brain and has an anti-inflammatory effect. Clinical trials indicate it can help depression.

The Unbalanced Essential Fatty Acids

Omega-3 essential fatty acid is essential to human health but is lacking in most Western diets. The balance of Omega-6 essential fatty acid and Omega-3 essential fatty acid should be four or five Omega 6 to each Omega-3 for a good balance. We get ample amounts of Omega-6 in the typical Western diet. The ratio in this diet is between 10 and 20 to 1 in favor of Omega 6, far too high in Omega-6. This unbalance encourages overproduction of some prostaglandins (hormone like substances your body makes that control many activities in your body). The imbalance causes many health problems by getting your body hormones and chemicals out of whack.

How much do you need?

There is no recommended daily Allowance (RDAs) for essential fatty acids. Each person requires different amounts.

What effects how much we need?

The requirement for men may be higher than that for women.

Conditions of stress or disease modify the Essential Fatty Acid requirement.

It is believed that we eat so many bad fats and not enough good fats in the typical Western diet of processed foods that we create an unbalance. (See article Good & Bad Fats) The imbalance causes many health problems. So how much bad fats you eat determines how much of the essential fatty acids you need to eat. Bad fats and other substances in the food supply increase the essential fatty acid requirements.

As mentioned earlier, the needed balance of the Essential Fatty Acids is 5 (five) Omega-6 to 1 (one) Omega-3. This is the Omega-6 to Omega-3 balance.

But, what is needed to counteract all the negative effects of eating the normal Western diet is about 1:2. For every one portion of Omega-6 you eat, you will need 2 portions of Omega-3

An optimum amount of essential fatty acid has been suggested as 3 to 6% of our daily calorie intake.

Each of us must find out optimum level by careful observation and experimentation. Your exact optimum level is something you must determine for yourself through practical experience.

One personal way to check is how dry your skin feels. Skin that obtains sufficient Omega 3 feels soft and velvety to touch. Skin that is too dry needs more Essential Fatty acid rich oil. In cold weather, skin dries and requires more Omega 3 oil than in warm weather.

Sources of Essential Fatty Acids (Omega-3 and Omega-6)

Omega-6 is amply supplied in the typical Western diet.

Good sources of Omega-3 essential fatty acids in food are nuts, soybean, canola oil, walnut oil, flaxseed oil. Fish, especially cold water fish such as salmon, bluefish, herring, tuna, cod, flounder, mackerel and shrimp are also good sources.

The downside of flaxseed oil has been that it is not easy to use. It is notoriously unstable and, unless it is properly processed, can turn rancid very quickly.

It has also been known to give you gas, diarrhea and heartburn.

Omega Supplements

Flaxseed Oil: The use of flaxseed does give you essential fatty acids. However, it works much slower as the body has to convert it to the fatty acids. You should also take it for a month and then take 2 weeks off as it does tend to build up in the body.

Benefits of Flaxseed oil is it is a rich source of lignans, a type of fiber that is changed by “friendly bacteria” in the gut into compounds that fight against cancer.

Omega-3 fatty acids contain a natural anti-inflammatory agent that can help relieve the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis, psoriasis, allergies, and other inflammatory diseases. Natural healers routinely prescribe flaxseed oil for those conditions with great success.

Omega-3 fatty acids offer important protection against heart disease as shown by hundreds of studies. Omega-3 fatty acids can lower high cholesterol and high blood pressure, reduce elevated blood triglyceride levels, and prevent blood clots. It corrects lipid abnormalities that could increase the risk of heart disease. Omega-3 fatty acids can lower blood levels of the protein homocysteine. Elevated levels of homocysteine are believed to be a major risk factor for heart disease.

Body builders claim that Omega-3 Fatty acids can increase their stamina and help them recover more quickly from workouts. Flaxseed oil contains a natural antioxidant, which could explain why it helps tired muscles recover more quickly. In addition, its anti-inflammatory effect can also help reduce muscle soreness.

How can I supplement my diet with Omega-3?


Fish Oil  A Natural Source of Health Promoting DHA and EPA Omega-3 Fatty Acids, Vitamin A and D



You can also learn about Trans Fats
What foods have them? Essential Fatty Acids in Food

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