Essential Fatty Acids
Fatty acids are an essential part of our diet to help smooth our organ systems. Our bodies cannot make essential fatty acids, so we must depend on food sources or take supplements.
There are two types of fatty acids, namely essential and non-essential. The body can make non-essential fatty acids when it converts amino acids from food sources.
Essential fatty acids are vital for regulating hormones that our body needs for the normal functioning of the immune system and the central nervous system.
Read more to see essential fatty acids, their types, food sources, and how they benefit our body.
What are Essential Fatty Acids?
Essential fatty acids are a class of lipids that our body cannot synthesize, so we have to get them through the food we eat. The two essential fatty acids we humans require are Linoleic acid (Omega-6) and Alpha-linolenic acid (omega-3). These are polyunsaturated fatty acids.(1)
Both omega 3 and 6 are crucial for the healthy functioning of our body and its various systems. These essential fatty acids make hormones called eicosanoids that act as nutrients for the body’s nervous system, immune system, and other hormones.
Even though both the essential fatty acids make the same compound, it facilitates different functions. The eicosanoids from Omega-3 fatty acids keep the heart healthy, whereas the same compound from Omega-6 can manage inflammation and blood pressure.
There should always be a balance in the amount of Omega 3 and 6 in our diet. Any excess of these fatty acids may not be suitable for our health.
Sources of Essential Fatty Acids
Here is a list of food sources that helps our body to synthesize Omega 3 and 6.
- Safflower oil.
- Sunflower seeds and oil.
- Pine nuts.
- Corn oil.
- Soybean oil.
- Sesame oil.
- Brazil nuts.
- Flaxseed oil.
- Dried Chia seeds.
- Walnut oil.
- Canola oil.
- Firm tofu.
- Soybean oil.
- Canola oil.
- Ground flaxseeds.
- Black walnuts
- Mackerel, Salmon, Herring.
- Oysters, Sardines, anchovies.
- Cod liver oil.
Benefits of Essential Fatty Acids
Helps to fight depression and anxiety.
Depression and anxiety are two of the most common mental disorders that affect millions. Studies show that people who take Omega-3 supplements see improvements in their condition.
Improves eye health.
A type of Omega-3 known as DHA is a significant component of our retina and promotes better vision. A deficiency in DHA may affect the quality of our vision and, in the long run, lead to permanent eye damage.
Promotes brain health in infants.
Omega-3 is a vital nutrient for the development of brain tissues during pregnancy and early childhood. Enough DHA taken during pregnancy will benefit the child, such as higher intelligence and better communication skills, to name a few. It decreases the risk of autism, ADHD, and Cerebral Palsy.
Protect against heart disease.
Omega-3 fatty acids reduce the risk of heart attacks and strokes by controlling blood pressure and triglycerides. It can also increase the level of good HDL cholesterol. It also keeps the arteries clean from plague and reduces inflammation.
Controls high blood pressure.
Omega-6 alone or taken with Omega-3 can help reduce hypertension or high blood pressure.
Improves symptoms in Attention Deficit Hyperactive Syndrome (ADHD).
Studies have shown that supplements of Omega-3 and Omega-6 can help reduce the symptoms in those diagnosed with ADHD. Essential fatty acids are crucial for brain development and growth, even though more research in this area would benefit everyone.
Those who don’t get enough Omega-3 and Omega-6 may suffer from weak bones, leading to osteoporosis. A well-balanced diet of essential fatty acids will also help increase bone density.
Treats Multiple sclerosis
In some instances, essential fatty acids helped treat multiple sclerosis when used with other conventional treatments.
Easing symptoms of Menopause.
It is becoming a popular way to consume essential fatty acids to ease the symptoms women face during and after Menopause. But make sure that you consult with your doctor before you start consuming them.
There is no fixed age when you can take essential fatty acids as supplements. The factors that will affect the dosage are the user’s age, health status, and other conditions like illness or disorders. It will be wrong to think that essential fatty acids are completely safe even though it is a natural supplements. That is why correct dosage and your doctor’s suggestion are critical.
Some potential side effects of essential fatty acids can be as follows:
If you are suffering from an underlying condition or on medication for a chronic illness. Always consult your doctor before you start taking supplements of essential fatty acids.
Here are a few essential points to keep in mind:
- High-Triglycerides: If you have high triglycerides, it is better not to take Omega-6 supplements as they raise triglyceride levels.
- Seizures: If you suffer from seizures, avoid taking Omega-6 sources as they may worsen the condition.
- Pregnancy and breast-feeding: It is safe to take Omega-6 supplements for adults and children if it covers 5% to 10% of their daily calories. But there is no evidence to prove it is safe to take during pregnancy or breastfeeding. So, to be safe, it is better not to take Omega-6 supplements during pregnancy and breastfeeding.
Conclusion – Essential Fatty Acids Health Benefits
Essential fatty acids are vital for the healthy development of our body, and we can’t synthesize them. But we can get these fatty acids from the food sources that we eat or from supplements.
Both Omega-3 and Omega-6 are crucial for brain development from the early stages of pregnancy and infancy. They also promote healthy hair, skin, and strong bones. If you cannot eat food sources with essential fatty acids, you can take supplements containing omega-3 and omega-6.
Your diet should have a balance between omega-3 and omega-6 for overall nutrition. In case of overconsumption of any of these fatty acids, it may lead to more inflammation and other diseases.
So, while taking Omega-3 and 6, either through food or supplements, ensure you don’t exceed the appropriate dosage for your age.