Essential fatty acids

Essential fatty acids are basically fats that cannot be produced by the human body and must be taken in via diet. Omega 3 and Omega 6 are two families of essential fatty acids that should be included in the diet. There are a number of functions that these fatty acids perform for the body and this is the reason they are termed essential. The body must have essential fatty acids to repair cell membranes, absorb nutrition from food, eliminate waste products and produce prostaglandins.

Prostaglandins are responsible for regulating body functions such as blood pressure, heart rate, fertility, blood clotting, conception and heart rate. They also work in the immune system by fighting infection and reducing inflammation in the body. Inflammation is responsible for a number of conditions such as arthritis and joint pain.

There must be a balance between the two essential fatty acids, Omega 6 to Omega 3 to the ratio of 4:1 or 1:1. The average diet is out of balance and actually has a ratio of 10:1 or even 25:1. It is unlikely that diet alone can produce the correct balance of essential fatty acids.

A deficiency in essential fatty acids or an imbalance has been linked with various health problems including heart disease and attacks, cancer, insulin resistance or diabetes, lupus, arthritis, schizophrenia, depression, stroke, obesity, Alzheimer’s disease and other conditions.

Essential fatty acids can be found in flaxseed oil, flaxseeds, walnuts, Brazil nuts, sesame seeds, avocados, spinach, mustard greens, canola oil, salmon, mackerel, soybean oil, tuna, anchovies and other cold water fish. You can get the amount of essential fatty acids that you need from one tablespoon of flaxseed oil per day, but currently research is showing that nuts may be a better source of the essential fatty acids because of the time release effect.

Essential fatty acids can also be found in supplements such as well. Many of the supplements that are on the market are made from fish oil and don’t include flaxseed oil. If you are using a fish oil supplement, make sure that it is from cold water fish such as salmon. These are the best sources of omega 3 fatty acids.

Many people have found that inflammation in the body is responsible for the aches and pains that are associated with aging. For some, supplementing the diet with essential fatty acids is enough to eliminate joint pain and can offer some relief for arthritis.

Heart health is the main reason that many people supplement their diet with essential fatty acids and fish oil supplements are one of the main ways that this can be accomplished. Evening primrose oil is one of the other sources of essential fatty acids that can offer a number of health benefits. Primrose oil has gamma linolenic acid which is an essential fatty acid. This supplement has been shown to reduce the effects of premenstrual syndrome such as bloating, depression, cramps and breast pain. It is also shown to improve arthritis pain and swelling along with skin conditions such as eczema and psoriasis.

Other sources of gamma linolenic acid are borage oil, or the oil that comes from the starflower. This is another supplement that supplies essential fatty acids to the diet. This source provides you with twice as much gamma linolenic acid as evening primrose oil. For those who need a stronger dose of essential fatty acids, this is a better choice.

Fish oil and flaxseed oil are the most common choices for essential fatty acids, but these other choices can also provide the omega 3 and omega 6 that the body needs. Most people do not get enough of these essential nutrients in their diet through food alone and require a supplement for heart health as well as relief from the pain of inflammation in the joints.


Last updated on May 13th, 2009 and filed under Healthy Eating. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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