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HEALTHY FATS REVISITED
by Dave Foreman
Essential fatty acids (EFAs) are considered "good" or "healthy" fats. I consider them to be as important as or - maybe even more important - to health and wellbeing than your vitamin and mineral supplements. These healthy fats are considered essential because our body cannot make them, and therefore they need to come from our diet or supplements. EFAs contribute to your health in too many ways to list here. Research with EFAs as supplements has shown benefits relating to most of the major diseases we face, such as: heart disease, arthritis, diabetes, cancer and major skin health issues - just to mention a few.
Signs and symptoms you may be coming up short on EFAs:
- Dry skin
- Itchy skin
- Poor Memory
- Heart disease
- Poor circulation
- Immune weakness
- Hormone imbalances
- Skin problems (eczema, etc)
- Mood problems (depression, ADD, etc.)
EFA deficiency is common in the United States, particularly Omega-3 deficiency. 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 at least one-quarter gram of Omega-3. Regretfully, most Americans have a ratio between 10:1 and 25:1. The imbalance of Omega-6 to Omega-3 is linked to health challenges such as heart attacks, cancer, depression, ADHD, Alzheimer's, Obesity, Diabetes, asthma and more. Because the balance seems to be tipped in the wrong direction, I primarily recommend the use of Omega-3 fatty acids and not blends of Omega-6 and Omega-3.
SO,WHAT ARE "OMEGA-3" AND "OMEGA-6" FATTY ACIDS?
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 and DHA. Omega-6 fatty acids include GLA, LA and AA. Let?s take a closer look at what these fats are and what benefits they may possess.
WHICH FATS ARE ESSENTIAL?
- Linoleic Acid (LA) (Omega-6 Fatty Acid) LA 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. The typical North American diet includes WAY too much LA and therefore I don't recommend supplementing with this fat.
- Alpha Linolenic Acid (ALA) (Omega-3 Fatty Acid) ALA is found primarily in chia, hemp, sacha inchi and flaxseed oil. ALA helps those with high blood cholesterol, high blood pressure and immune function health challenges such as cancer. In some of us, the body can convert ALA into EPA and DHA.
- Gamma Linolenic Acid (GLA) (Omega-6 Fatty Acid) GLA is found in borage, black currant and evening primrose oils. GLA helps the body fight inflammation, reduce blood clotting, cope with PMS and lower blood pressure. GLA has been shown to help with conditions such as arthritis, heart disease, cancer, eczema and psoriasis.
- Eicosapentaenoic Acid (EPA) and Docosahexaenoic Acid (DHA) (Omega-3 Fatty Acid) These two are responsible for the beneficial effects of fish oils. Research has shown that fish oils containing EPA and DHA have therapeutic benefits in areas including: rheumatoid arthritis, high blood triglycerides, high blood pressure, cardiac arrhythmia, infant brain development, and cancer...the list is endless!
- Arachidonic Acid (AA) (An Omega-6 Fatty Acid) AA is necessary for infant brain development and small amounts are required for overall fetal development. However, it is not generally deemed a "healthy" fat, because, in excess, AA may have some harmful effects. It is also found in meat, eggs, and some shellfish.
Again, your body cannot make these fats and therefore they need to come from your diet or from a supplement. Since most of us do not consume a diet high in the sources of all of these fats it becomes necessary to take a dietary supplement.
WHERE DO I GET MY EFAS?
The most popular dietary supplements for EFAs are Evening Primrose Oil, Borage Oil, Flaxseed Oil and Fish Oil. See chart below for a closer look at each one of these "Healthy" fats and see what the specific benefits and shortcomings might be.
WHAT'S THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN FISH OIL AND FLAX SEED OIL?
There are numerous differences between the two (some are listed in the chart). The most significant to me, and the reason I take a fish oil supplement, is that not all of us convert ALA into EPA and DHA. Most important to me is the DHA. Even if the body converts the ALA to EPA, it may still have to make DHA. Since we are unaware of who can or cannot make the conversion, I use caution and take a fish oil to assure myself I am getting the DHA my body needs. I truly believe that the reason we have so many epidemic health challenges is the lack of these key nutrients in our diet. Brands I either use or recommend:
- Coromega® (my personal favorite)
- Nordic Naturals
- Carlson Laboratories
- Vitamin Shoppe Brand