ESSENTIAL FATTY ACIDS (EFA)
An Explanation Of These "Must-Have" Nutrients
Essential Fatty Acids (EFA's) are fats required by the body that must be supplied by diet because the body cannot manufacture them, hence the term “essential.” These fats are the raw material for the production of prostaglandins (local-acting, hormone-like substances) in the body.
Some fats eventually become inflammatory prostaglandins. These inflammatory prostaglandins contribute to generalized inflammation and blood platelet “stickiness.” Inflammatory prostaglandins play an important role in the development of arthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, hardening of the arteries (atherosclerosis), stroke, heart disease and cancer. They may also contribute to pain and generalized inflammation.
In contrast, other fats become anti-inflammatory prostaglandins. This type of prostaglandin relieves painful inflammation, improves blood flow, and reduces the risk of heart disease, stroke, cancer and autoimmune disease.
Omega-6 fatty acids produce inflammatory prostaglandins almost exclusively. Many vegetable oils are Omega-6 oils.
The typical American diet is much higher in inflammatory fats than anti-inflammatory fats.
Glossary of Fats
Omega-3 Oils are derived primarily from fish oil and flax seeds. These essential fatty acids are anti-inflammatoryand have a positive effect on cardiovascular disease, including high cholesterol and high blood pressure, allergic and inflammatory conditions (including psoriasis and eczema), autoimmune diseases, cancer, neurological disease, menopause, general health enhancement. Supplementation with Omega-3 Essential Fatty Acids can help “tip the scales” in favor of anti-inflammation.
Omega-6 Oils are found in evening primrose, black current, borage and a number of vegetable oils. Although supplementation is popular, these oils are necessary only in very small amounts. Excess Omega-6 oils increase arachadonic acid levels (an inflammatory substance). Only diabetics usually need to supplement very small doses of these oils. (Less than 500mg/day).
Omega-9 Oils are found in olive and canola oils. These oils are neutral, producing neither inflammation nor anti-inflammation. Extra virgin olive oil is a good choice for salad dressings & stir-frying food because it is expressed mechanically, without the use of chemicals.
Omega-3 Essential Fatty Acid Deficiency is a common problem in the average American diet, and supplementation with Omega-3 Essential Fatty Acids is almost always indicated. Find the best dietary sources of Essential Fatty Acids here.