Essential Fatty Acids - What are they and why do we need them?

The role of lipids, including essential fatty acids and their prostaglandin, leukotriene and other derivatives, is now evident in almost all areas of biomedical science. Cell membrane behavior and cell signaling in all tissues are highly dependent on the lipid (fat) constituents of cells.


What are essential fatty acids?

Scientists have given essential fats (a.k.a. essential fatty acids or EFA's) their name because the body must have them to survive, but cannot synthesize them from any other substance we eat, so a direct food source is required. Hence, the name essential.

There are many kinds of fats, but only two kinds of essential fats: omega 3 (n-3 or w3) and omega 6 (n-6 or w6), both of which are unsaturated fats.

Each EFA is turned into several derivatives by the body, provided enough n-3 and n-6, in the right ratio, and made with health in mind, are supplied. All other fats, such as omega 9 (monounsaturated), omega 7, and saturated fat, are non-essential because the body can produce them from sugars and starches.

The Role of Essential Fatty Acids


Where do essential fats come from?

Sources of n-3s are flaxseeds and green leafy vegetables. The n-3 derivatives EPA and DHA are found in high fat, cold water fish such as albacore tuna, sardines, Atlantic halibut and salmon, coho, pink and king salmon, Pacific and Atlantic herring, Atlantic mackerel, and lake trout.

Small amounts of EPA and DHA n-3s are also found in oysters and other shellfish. Fish is high in omega-3 fats and low in toxins, but just how healthy is all fish? Here is a list of healthy fish sources with their caloric and healthy fat content provided.

N-6 is found in sesame and sunflower seeds and other seeds and nuts. Land animal meats and fish are sources of the n-6 derivative arachidonic acid (AA). The fish listed above are preferred sources of n-3 and n-6 derivatives, because they are the richest sources, and contain both, with more n-3s.


Why do people need essential fats?

Just as a member of a large family has many roles, essential fats serve many functions in the complex workings of the human body.

Essential fatty acids in the diet establish and maintain our health by:

Get your essential fatty acids by supplementing with an essential fatty acid formula, but which one? Essential Fatty Acid Oil Blends Evaluated