TMR Health: Understanding EFAs (Essential Fatty Acids)

Essential Fatty Acids (EFAs) are considered “good” fats. Your body cannot make Essential Fatty Acids, and therefore they need to come from your diet or from a supplement. Since most of us do not consume a diet high in these fats it may become necessary to take a dietary supplement. EFAs contribute to your health in too many ways to list here. Research with EFAs as supplements has been performed in relation to their potential benefits to your heart, skin, brain, eyes, joints and more.

The ideal intake ratio of Omega-6 to Omega-3 fatty acids is between 1:1 and 4:1. This means for every gram of Omega-6 you need up to one gram of Omega-3. The typical American diet often leads to a ratio between 10:1 and 25:1, a proportion which may lead to health related issues. Changing your diet to improve your ratio is an important factor in experiencing the full health benefits of EFAs – that’s why so many people take an Omega-3 supplement every day.

Omega-3 and Omega-6 are scientific terms for two different classifications of EFAs. These names are derived from the chemical composition of the fatty acid molecules. Omega-3 fatty acids include ALA, EPA DHA. Omega-6 fatty acids include GLA and LA.

The most popular dietary supplements for EFAs are Fish Oil, Flax Seed Oil, Evening Primrose Oil, and Borage Oil.

The reason fish oil is so popular as a supplement, is that not all of us convert ALA into EPA and DHA. DHA is important for health and, even if the body converts the ALA to EPA, it still has to make DHA. Since we are unaware of who is able to make the conversion, make sure to take fish oil to assure to assure you are getting adequate EPA and DHA.

Eicosapentaenoic Acid (EPA) and Docosahexaenoic Acid (DHA) (Omega-3 Fatty Acids) are responsible for many of the beneficial effects of fish oils. Research has shown that fish oils containing EPA and DHA may have therapeutic benefits throughout your body, especially for the health of your heart, brain and joints.

Alpha Linolenic Acid (ALA) (An Omega-3 Fatty Acid) is found primarily in Flax seed oil. ALA helps support heart health, including healthy cholesterol already within the normal range, and may also provide immunity benefits. In some of us, the body can convert ALA into EPA and DHA.

Gamma Linolenic Acid (GLA) (An Omega-6 Fatty Acid) is found in borage, black currant and evening primrose oils. GLA helps the body’s inflammation response and supports healthy circulation. It supports mood in pre-menopausal women as well.

Linoleic Acid (LA) (An Omega-6 Fatty Acid) is found in processed foods, margarine, and vegetable oils. LA helps improve skin conditions. It may also be partially converted to GLA in the body.