Vitamin supplements guide   Vitamins & health supplements guide

Essential fatty acids index

Essential fatty acids

Essential fatty acids are polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA) necessary for human health that can only be obtained from dietary sources. They have unique properties in that by dietary manipulation it may be possible to redirect certain aspects of the body's metabolism to reduce
inflammation and cytokine production. Fatty acid is a carboxylic acid (or organic acid), often with a long aliphatic tail (long chains), either saturated or unsaturated. The body takes combinations of different triglycerides and makes fats from them to help in various processes. The basic building blocks of any fats are the fatty acids. Fatty acids are either essential or nonessential. Most of the natural fatty acids have an even number of carbon atoms, because they are made up of acetate which has two carbon atoms.

Essential fatty acids are necessary for the formation of healthy cell membranes, the proper development and functioning of the brain and nervous system, and for the production of hormone-like substances called eicosanoids (thromboxanes, leukotrienes, prostaglandins). These chemicals regulate numerous body functions including blood pressure, blood viscosity, vasoconstriction, immune and inflammatory responses. Essential fatty acids prevent the growth of bacteria and viruses, which will not thrive in the presence of oxygen, by oxygenating cell membranes. By oxygenation of body tissues, EFAs shorten the exercise recovery time for tired muscles. EFAs are needed for many physiologic processes, including maintaining the integrity of the skin and the structure of cell membranes and synthesizing prostaglandins and leukotrienes. Eicosapentaenoic acid and docosahexaenoic acid are important components of the brain and retina. Essential fatty acids prolong blood-clotting time, helping wounds to heal. EFAs prevent abnormal blood clotting by inhibiting the production of a substance known as thromboxane, which allows platelets to clot. EFAs help eliminate eczema, psoriasis, dandruff, and help prevent hair loss. Brittle nails respond to essential fatty acids. EFAs balance the skin's metabolism by controlling the flow of oils and nourish collagen, the supporting structure beneath the skin. Vitamins A and E are fat-soluble and work with essential fatty acids to provide glowing skin and hair.

Essential fatty acids (EFAs) include linoleic acid and arachidonic acid, which are omega-6 fatty acids, and linolenic acid, eicosapentaenoic acid, and docosahexaenoic acid, which are omega-3 fatty acids. In the body, arachidonic acid can be made from linoleic acid, and eicosapentaenoic and docosahexaenoic acids can be made from linolenic acid. Linoleic acid is plentiful in many oils (corn, safflower, soybean and sunflower), whole grains and walnuts. Alpha-linolenic acid is a plant precursor of docosahexanoic acid (DHA) one of the omega-3 fatty acids in fish believed to have many protective effects on the heart. Humans have the ability to convert the linoleic and alpha-linolenic acid to longer chain fatty acids, which serve as precursors for eicosanoids. Sources of ALA include seaweeds and green leave of plants (in very small amounts), soybeans, walnuts, butternuts, some seeds (flax, chia, hemp, canola) and the oils extracted from these foods. Omega-3 fatty acids are polyunsaturated fatty acids found in certain fish tissues, and in vegetable sources such as flax seeds, hemp seeds, walnuts, and canola oil. They are called omega-3 fatty acids because the first double bond counting from the methyl end of the fatty acid is located at the third carbon atom. Omega-6 fatty acids are fatty acids where the term "omega-6" signifies that the first double bond in the carbon backbone of the fatty acid, counting from the end opposite the acid group, occurs in the sixth carbon-carbon bond. Omega 3 fatty acids have an anti-inflammatory effect and have been show to have a beneficial effect in people suffering from lupus, rheumatoid arthritis and ulcerative colitis. Healthy skin and hair are maintained by fat and fat helps in the absorption, and transport through the bloodstream of the fat-soluble vitamin A, vitamin D, vitamin E, and vitamin K.