What would you say if there was something that could prevent a heart attack or cut your chance of a second heart attack by 50%? And what if it was inexpensive and non-prescription? Essential Fatty Acids (EFAs) has been shown to lower triglycerides, turn off arrhythmias, and dramatically drop your chance of dying from a heart attack. In fact, it is among three of the top nutrients that have been shown to make the difference in those who survive a heart attack. They include essential fatty acids, the 8-part vitamin E and magnesium.
Why do we need EFAs?
Since they are responsible for the following functions in the body, I say they are super essential!
- Reduce inflammation throughout the body
- Keep the blood from clotting excessively
- Improve blood vessel health
- Support healthy and glowing skin
- Supporting healthy brain and nervous system function
- Maintain the fluidity of cell membranes
- Lower the amount of lipids circulating in the bloodstream Improve the body’s ability to respond to insulin
- Help prevent cancer cell growth
- Reduce stress
What is the difference between omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids?
Omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids are both considered EFAs. They are necessary for human health and must be obtained by diet. Along with omega 3 fatty acids, omega 6 or polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) play a crucial role in brain function and normal growth and development. They also help stimulate skin and hair growth, maintain bone health, regulate metabolism, and maintain our reproductive system.
A healthy diet must contain a balanced ratio of omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids. Omega 3 fatty acids help reduce inflammation whereas some of the omega-6 fatty acids tend to promote it. The typical American diet may contain up to 25 times more omega-6 fatty acids than omega-3 which why we may be faced with the increase of inflammatory based diseases.
What is DHA?
Omega 3s are converted by the body into DHA and EPA. When you think DHA, think BRAIN! The brain is made up of primarily fatty acids or phospholipids. Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) makes up about 60% of our brain. It is vital to its function, reduces inflammation, and prevents degeneration. DHA does this by maintaining cell membrane health, supporting new cell growth, facilitating the release of neurotransmitters, and aiding in cellular communication.
It is important to keep in mind that DHA levels decrease with age due to oxidative damage. DHA is also found in high quantities in the retina, the light sensitive part of the eye.
What is EPA?
When you think EPA, think ANTI-INFLAMMATORY! Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) is also found in the brain, but not to the degree that DHA is. EPAs fights overall inflammation and can be beneficial against inflammatory based disorders such as cardiovascular event, diabetes, cancer, autoimmunity, Alzheimer’s, etc.
What are Trans Fatty Acids?
Trans fats are man-made unsaturated fats used to increase product shelf-life. Trans fatty acids replace the natural DHA in the cell membrane and myelin sheath that insulates neurons, thereby setting the stage for cellular degeneration and diminished mental performance.
How you might ask? Brain cells need a certain degree of flexibility to function properly. This is accomplished by a maintaining a balance of different types of fatty acids in the cell membrane. The particular physical size and shape of individual fatty acid molecules is what gives the brain cell membrane its healthy structural flexibility and fluid-like properties. Normal fatty acids have a natural curve to their molecular shape. When they fit together in vast numbers, enough space still remains in-between so that the membrane has the proper structure it needs to function.
However, if these same fat molecules are changed by manufactured food processes, or if they are heated for long periods, as in deep frying, they mutate into a form rarely found in nature. Now their molecules are straighter, narrower, and no longer have their original curved shape. This means that these altered fats will pack more tightly together into the cell membrane, making it more saturated and rigid, therefore less flexible and less able to function properly.
What are the symptoms of low EFAs?
Deficiencies in EFAs may present as the following…
- Poor brain function
- Painful joints, chronic pain and inflammation
- Dry or unhealthy skin
- Hormone imbalance
- Excess ear wax
- Tension headache
- Muscle fatigue
- and more…
What causes low EFAs levels?
EFA deficiency is becoming common. One reason may be the widespread consumption hydrogenated and partially hydrogenated fats and fried foods. These fats prevent the EFAs from being properly utilized by tying up enzymes needed for their absorption. In addition, trans fats block insulin receptors leading to sugar dysregulation leading to the myriad of problems associated with it. Others may have a problem breaking down fats in general due to GI/gallbladder/thyroid or enzymic dysfunction.
What are the best sources of EFAs?
Since the body can’t make EFAs, we must get it from diet or supplements. What is my number one choice of omega 3s? Wild caught Alaskan salmon, wild caught Alaskan salmon, and more wild caught Alaskan salmon!! Turns out the best food source of EPA is fatty fish, such as Alaskan black cod, mackerel, herring, anchovies, sardines, salmon, and bluefish. Although EPA is available in some vegetarian foods such as walnuts, flaxseeds, beans and dark green leafy vegetables, they must first be converted from alpha-linolenic acid (ALA). Those with insulin resistance or with a diet containing too much omega 6 may have a difficult time with this conversion.
Omega 6 foods include nuts and seeds but are mostly found in vegetable oils and snack foods. Omega 6 foods include nuts and seeds but are mostly found in vegetable oils and snack foods. Omega 6 oils include sunflower, cottonseed, soybean, sesame, and canola.
How much do I need to eat?
Our ancestors consumed a diet consisting of a ratio of 1:1 omega 3 to omega 6. We recommend a 1:1- 1:4 ratio to minimize the possibility of an inflammatory response.
What about supplements?
Therapeutic doses may be necessary for some folks. We recommend supplementing with EPA/DHA already broken down to its primary constituents since many people have genetic predispositions inhibiting their inability to breakdown the food or supplement into its usable form. Supplements are generally safe but can be an issue with those on blood thinners. Excess amounts could lead to easy bruising, bleeding gums, etc.
The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition suggests a healthy dietary intake of omega 3 to be 3500mg for a person consuming 2000 calories a day. A good ratio of EPA/DHA is 10:1 or 20:1 depending on need.
What about GLA supplements?
Gamma linolenic acid (GLA) is an omega 6 EFA found in many plant oil extracts. Most omega-6 fatty acids in the diet come from vegetable oils in the form of linoleic acid but it is also found in human breast milk. The body converts this to GLA. It has been suggested that some individuals may not be able to efficiently convert the omega-6 fatty acid to GLA and may benefit from taking supplements.
Commercial products are typically made from seed extracts from evening primrose, black currant, and borage oil.
How can you test EFA status?
Genova Diagnostics offer affordable Fatty Acid Profile testing. We may also see possible dysfunction in fat assimilation via general symptoms and Functional Blood Chemistry Analysis.