Essential Fatty Acids FAQ
Acids (EFAs) are necessary
fats that humans cannot synthesize, and must be obtained
through diet. EFAs are
long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids derived from
linolenic, linoleic, and oleic acids. There are two
families of EFAs: Omega
3 and Omega 6. Omega-9 is necessary yet "non-essential"
because the body can manufacture a modest amount on
its own, provided essential EFAs
are present. The number following "Omega-" represents
the position of the first double bond, counting from
the terminal methyl group on the molecule. Omega 3 fatty
acids are derived from Linolenic Acid, Omega 6 from
Linoleic Acid, and Omega-9 from Oleic Acid.
Acids support the cardiovascular, reproductive, immune,
and nervous systems. The human body needs EFAs
to manufacture and repair cell membranes, enabling the
cells to obtain optimum nutrition and expel harmful
waste products. A primary function of EFAs
is the production of prostaglandins, which regulate
body functions such as heart rate, blood pressure, blood
clotting, fertility, conception, and play a role in
immune function by regulating inflammation and encouraging
the body to fight infection. Essential Fatty Acids are
also needed for proper growth in children, particularly
for neural development and maturation of sensory systems,
with male children having higher needs than females.
Fetuses and breast-fed infants also require an adequate
supply of EFAs through
the mother's dietary intake.
Acids deficiency is common in the United States, particularly
Omega 3 deficiency. An ideal intake ratio of Omega 6
to Omega 3 fatty acids is between 1:1 and 4:1, with
most Americans only obtaining a ratio between 10:1 and
25:1. The minimum healthy intake for both linolenic
(Omega 3) and linoleic (Omega 6) acid via diet, per
adult per day, is 1.5 grams of each.
of flaxseed oil can provide this amount, or larger amounts
of other linolenic-rich foods. Because high heat destroys
linolenic acid, cooking in linolenic-rich oils or eating
cooked linolenic-rich fish is unlikely to provide a
deficiency and Omega 6/3 imbalance is linked with serious
health conditions, such as heart attacks, cancer, insulin
resistance, asthma, lupus, schizophrenia, depression,
postpartum depression, accelerated aging, stroke, obesity,
diabetes, arthritis, ADHD, and Alzheimer's Disease,
Omega 3 (Linolenic
Acid (ALA) is the principal Omega 3 fatty acid, which
a healthy human will convert into eicosapentaenoic acid
(EPA), and later into docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). EPA
and the GLA synthesized from linoleic (Omega 6) acid
are later converted into hormone-like compounds known
as eicosanoids, which aid in many bodily functions including
vital organ function and intracellular activity.
Omega 3s are used
in the formation of cell walls, making them supple and
flexible, and improving circulation and oxygen uptake
with proper red blood cell flexibility and function.
Omega 3 deficiencies
are linked to decreased memory and mental abilities,
tingling sensation of the nerves, poor vision, increased
tendency to form blood clots, diminished immune function,
increased triglycerides and "bad" cholesterol (LDL)
levels, impaired membrane function, hypertension, irregular
heart beat, learning disorders, menopausal discomfort,
and growth retardation in infants, children, and pregnant
3 found in foods:
Flaxseed oil (flaxseed
oil has the highest linolenic content of any food),
flaxseeds, flaxseed meal, hempseed oil, hempseeds, walnuts,
pumpkin seeds, Brazil nuts, sesame seeds, avocados,
some dark leafy green vegetables (kale, spinach, purslane,
mustard greens, collards, etc.), soybean oil, wheat
germ oil, salmon, mackerel, sardines, anchovies, albacore
tuna, and others.
One tablespoon per
day of flaxseed oil should provide the recommended daily
adult portion of linolenic acid, although "time-released"
effects of consuming nuts and other linolenic-rich foods
is being studied, and considered more beneficial than
a once-daily oil intake.
Flaxseed oil used
for dietary supplementation should be kept in the refrigerator
or freezer, and purchased from a supplier who refrigerates
the liquid as well.
contain a natural form of cyanide, and home gardeners
should be cautious if trying to grow flax. The seeds
must be ripe before harvesting. If attempting to grow
flax at home, consult an experienced grower.
6 (Linoleic Acid)
Linoleic Acid is
the primary Omega 6 fatty acid. A healthy human with
good nutrition will convert linoleic acid into gamma
linolenic acid (GLA), which will later by synthesized,
with EPA from the Omega 3 group, into eicosanoids.
Some Omega 6s improve diabetic neuropathy, rheumatoid
arthritis, PMS, skin disorders (e.g. psoriasis and eczema),
and aid in cancer treatment.
Although most Americans
obtain an excess of linoleic acid, often it is not converted
to GLA because of metabolic problems caused by diets
rich in sugar, alcohol, or trans fats from processed
foods, as well as smoking, pollution, stress, aging,
viral infections, and other illnesses such as diabetes.
It is best to eliminate these factors when possible,
but some prefer to supplement with GLA-rich foods such
as borage oil, black currant seed oil, or evening primrose
found in foods:
Flaxseed oil, flaxseeds,
flaxseed meal, hempseed oil, hempseeds, grapeseed oil,
pumpkin seeds, pine nuts, pistachio nuts, sunflower
seeds (raw), olive oil, olives, borage oil, evening
primrose oil, black currant seed oil, chestnut oil,
chicken, among many others.
Avoid refined and
hydrogenated versions of these foods.
sunflower, soybean, and cottonseed oils are also sources
of linoleic acid, but are refined and may be nutrient-deficient
as sold in stores.
Essential but technically
not an EFA, because the
human body can manufacture a limited amount, provided
essential EFAs are present.
Monounsaturated oleic acid lowers heart attack
risk and arteriosclerosis, and aids in cancer prevention.
9 found in foods:
Olive oil (extra
virgin or virgin), olives, avocados, almonds, peanuts,
sesame oil, pecans, pistachio nuts, cashews, hazelnuts,
macadamia nuts, etc.
One to two tablespoons
of extra virgin or virgin olive oil per day should provide
sufficient oleic acid for adults. However, the "time-released"
effects of obtaining these nutrients from nuts and other
whole foods is thought to be more beneficial than consuming
the entire daily amount via a single oil dose.
High heat, light,
and oxygen destroy EFAs,
so when consuming foods for their EFA
content, try to avoid cooked or heated forms. For example,
raw nuts are a better source than roasted nuts. Don't
use flaxseed oil for cooking, and never re-use any type
fats (like margarine), cholesterol-based fats (butter/dairy
products), and poly-saturated fats (common cooking oils)
with healthy EFA-based
fats when possible. For example, instead of margarine
or butter on your warm (not hot) vegetables, use flaxseed
and/or extra virgin olive oils with salt. (This tastes
similar to margarine, as margarine is just hydrogenated
oil with salt.)
meal on vegetables adds a slightly nutty taste. Whole
flaxseeds are usually passed through the intestine,
absorbing water only and not yielding much oil. Also,
it's best not to use huge amounts of flaxseed in its
meal (ground seed) form, as it contains phytoestrogens.
The oil is much lower in phytoestrogens.
In many recipes
calling for vegetable shortening, replacing the shortening
with half as much virgin olive oil, and a very small
pinch of extra salt, often yields similar results.
and/or virgin olive oil to salads instead of supermarket
salad oil is another healthy change.
Replace oily snack
foods, like potato chips and corn chips, with nuts and
Extra virgin olive
oil or grapeseed oil are best to use for cooking oil,
as they withstand high heat well.
Reported Health Benifits Of Omega 3 6 9
suggest that Omega 3 6 9 EFA's
may be helpful in treating a variety of conditions.
high cholesterol levels
high blood pressure
prevent heart disease
the possibility of a stroke
to control Diabetes
in weight loss
the inflamation of Arthritis
in the proper assimilation of calcium to fight Osteoporosis
to boost mental clarity ti fight: Depression, Manic/Depression
Schizophrenia, Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder
(ADHD) and Eating Disorders
one heal faster from burns
treat Skin Disorders
reduce the effects of Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD)
build the immune system to treat Asthma
Macular Degeneration in many
the possibilty of Colon Cancer, Breast Cancer and Prostate
Although further research is needed, preliminary
evidence suggests that Omega 3 6 9 fatty acids may also
prove helpful in protecting against certain infections
and treating a variety of conditions including ulcers,
migraine headaches, preterm labor, emphysema, psoriasis,
glaucoma, Lyme disease, lupus, and panic attacks.
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