The Role Of Essential Fatty Acids: Omega 6, Omega 3, EPA and DHA explained.
What is the role of essential fatty acids? Two Essential Fatty Acids (EFAs) are necessary for health. These are the polyunsaturated fats: Omega-6 (linoleic acid) and Omega-3 (alpha-linolenic acid).
Essential Fatty Acids are essential because your body can’t make them, it is totally reliant on getting them through diet.
Fatty acids are essential for eye health, heart health, joint health, mental health, pregnancy and infant health as well as energy production, cell membrane formation, oxygen transfer from air to blood, haemoglobin manufacture and prostaglandin function (anti-inflammatory). Whoa, they really are ESSENTIAL!
Symptoms of EFA deficiency may include skin conditions such as eczema, psoriasis and dry skin, heart and circulatory problems, fatigue, immune weakness, gastrointestinal and mood disorders. A lack of dietary EFAs will also play a role in the development of chronic diseases including asthma, arthritis and cardiovascular disease.
The Role of the Essential Fatty Acids
Omega-3 fatty acids are found in foods such as oily fish (Mercury in Fish handout) and some seeds. Two servings of wild-caught, cold-water fatty fish per week are highly recommended. When it comes to seeds, we would have to eat copious amounts of them to obtain an optimal level of ‘active’ omega-3. High-quality, purified fish oil is therefore a very effective source of omega-3 essential fatty acids. This is why supplementation of omega-3 through fish oil is so beneficial.
Nutritionally important components of Omega-3 fatty acids include eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA).
Not all omega-3 sources are equal – for example flaxseed contains only small amounts of two important active components of fatty acids – EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) and these are the two proven by research to be ultimately responsible for the major health benefits of omega-3 fatty acids. Similarly many cheap fish oil capsules contain inadequate amounts of EPA and DHA. Some types of fish oil contain higher portion of either EPA or DHA.
Omega-6 fatty acids are found in Safflower oil, Sunflower oil, Corn oil, Sesame oil, Pumpkin oil, Soybean oil, Walnut oil, Wheatgerm oil, Evening Primrose oil, cereals and whole-grains. Some experts think that our consumption of the Omega-6 fatty acids have grown out of proportion since the introduction of processed foods. Excess intake of omega 6 fatty acids can cause increased water retention, raised blood pressure and raised blood clotting.
It’s the ratio that’s important – There has been a lot written about the ratio of Omega-6 fatty acids to Omega-3 fatty acids, with most experts agreeing we should consume more Omega-6’s to Omega-3’s. Modern Western diets typically have ratios of Omega−6 to Omega−3 in excess of 10:1, some as high as 30:1. The optimal ratio is thought to be 4:1 or lower. A high proportion of Omega−6 to Omega−3 fat in the diet is believed to be a major driver of disease processes.
As most people get adequate amounts of Omega-6’s from their diet we tend to supplement for Omega-3’s (mainly EPA & DHA) to lift up the omega-3 portion of the ratio.
Given a large part of the population has got this ratio way out of balance, a good quality, optimum ratio of EPA:DHA, pure fish oil is often recommended.
With so many different types of fish oils on the market, it is important to know what fish oil is the most beneficial to your body. It is essential to research the fish oil company before purchasing to ensure it uses sustainable practices, surpasses pharmaceutical standards and has the highest purity possible. Your fish oil should NOT smell fishy! If you are unsure of which fish oil is the right one for you, contact us.
The team at Perpetual Wellbeing offer the Essential Fatty Acids Profile test to assess your risk of Omega-6 and Omega-3 deficiency and reduce your risk of chronic disease. Book an appointment with one of our practitioners.