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Essential Fatty Acids (EFAs)

Fatty acids are the building blocks of fats in the same way as amino acids are the building blocks of proteins. Many can be manufactured in the body from other fatty acids and by the conversion of sugar in the liver.

Those that can't and therefore must be provided in the diet are called "essential fatty acids".

Essential fatty acids are divided into two groups, namely Omega-3 and Omega-6. All essential fatty acids are naturally polyunsaturated, and the 3 or 6 in the name tells you that the first double bond on the molecule is 3 or 6 carbons from the end.

Essential fatty acids that MUST be included in the diet include the following:

Linoleic acid (LA) (omega-6)
Arachidonic acid (AA) (omega-6)
Gamma linolenic acid (GLA) (omega-6)
Dihomogamma linolenic acid (DGLA) (omega-6)

Alpha linolenic acid (LNA or ALA) (omega-3)
Eicosapentenoic acid (EPA) (omega-3)
Docosahexanoic acid (DHA) (omega-3)

Whilst the Omega-6 essential fatty acids are abundant in all sorts of vegetable oils and meats, the omega-3's are much harder to come by. They can be found in oily fish (salmon, mackerel, trout) as ell as some seeds and nuts, including walnuts, flax seeds and pumpkin seeds. Unfortunately, however, most of us are not including enough of these items in our diet - if we are including any at all!

A recent study discovered that, in the USA, 25% of adults tested had so little Omega-3 essential fatty acids in their blood that they were undetectable.

Hang on, 25 percent of the population in the country with the biggest incidence of depression, other psychiatric "illness", aggression, murder and childhood "behavioural issues" have absolutely NONE of the fat which makes up 50% of the brain and covers every nerve fibre - could there be a correlation here?

You bet there is!

Lack of Omega-3 essential fatty acids have been directly linked to ALL of the above, as well as birth weight of babies, low gestational age at birth (prematurity), incidence of Ischemic heart disease and longevity.

What is worse is that lack of these essential fatty acids in your blood strongly suggests that you are eating the wrong kind of fats, as well as omitting the right ones.

What can you do about it.

Firstly, you can try to add into your diet the foods that contain Omega-3 essenial fatty acids, listed above, to which can be added grass-fed beef (grain-fed beef has NO omega-3 content). In doing this, bear in mind that some Governments, such as the UK are now recommending that you eat no more than 200g of sea-fish a week, due to the levels of the toxins dioxin and mercury in fish, especially fish livers, where toxins concentrate.

Secondly, and this goes for most people, you should add a high-quality omega-3 supplement to your diet. Be sure that the fish oil used to produce it is from sources that filter out all the toxins (we only know of one manufacturer that uses this expensive process, but charges no more for their oil than others), is PURE Omega-3 and is not diluted with other oils, e.g. vegetable oils.

Essential qualities of Omega-3 essential Fatty acids

  • Make sure it is PURE Omega-3
  • Check it is undiluted
  • Ask if dioxin has been removed

Pregnancy warning.

By the time most mothers come to term, their bodies are completely exhausted of the Omega-3 essential fatty acids DHA and EPA, which are the main building blocks of the baby's brain and nerves. For a healthy baby, and to help prevent premature birth you MUST include these supplements in your diet, taking note of the required qualities above.

Back from Essential Fatty Acids to fats

Further reading

Know Your Fats : The Complete Primer for Understanding the Nutrition of Fats, Oils and Cholesterol
by Mary G. Enig

The Cholesterol Myths : Exposing the Fallacy that Saturated Fat and Cholesterol Cause Heart Disease
by Uffe Ravnskov

Fats That Heal, Fats That Kill: The Complete Guide to Fats, Oils, Cholesterol and Human Health
by Udo Erasmus

Choosing the Right Fats: For Vibrant Health, Weightloss, Energy, Vitality (Natural Health Guide)
by Udo Erasmus

The Omega-3 Connection: The Groundbreaking Antidepression Diet and Brain Program
by Andrew L. M.D. Stoll

Related Links

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Saturated animal fat
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Vegetable oils
All oils are not created equal. Find out why some vegetable oils are better than others.

Hydrogenated oils (unsaturated or poly-unsaturated fats)
Margarine, shortening and other "low-cholesterol" fats. Find out why these have caused more damage to health than any other type of oils or fats.

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