Today, Monday, April 22, 2019

What are Essential Fatty Acids and What are the Best Sources?

What are the Essential Fatty Acids?

The essential fatty acids or EFA are polyunsaturated fats that perform important functions in the health and vitality of the human body. They are called ‘essential’ because are indispensable for good health and our organism can’t produce them, which is why we must obtain them through our diet or supplementation, to avoid deficiency and promote overall good health.

There are two groups of essential fatty acids: Omega-3 and Omega-6. The normal cellular function depends in the balanced ingestion of these two groups; however the excessive presence of Omega-6 fatty acids in our diet, especially through the use of refined oils, processed foods and meats, alters the balance of the EFA in the body.

The excess of Omega-6 in the diet and in Omega-3 deficiency are factors that contribute to many medical conditions such as diabetes, arthritis, heart disease and depression. The most beneficial for the human body are the Omega-3 fatty acids like EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid). The Omega-6 fatty acid group is composed of GLA (gamma-lenolenic acid).

Why are the EFA important?

These essential fatty acids are important, as they are the basic components utilize by our bodies for the production of beneficial eicosanoids. The eicosanoids are found in every human cell and affect the function of every system in the human body. The eicosanoids control blood pressure, improve circulation, and regulate pain response by the natural strengthening of the inflammatory response in the organism. The EFA are also part of vital structural components in the membranes that protect the cells in the body.

What are the sources of EFA’s?

The best source of Omega-3 EPA and DHA if found in cold water fish like sardines, anchovies, salmon and mackerel.

What is the EPA?

The eicosapentaenoic acid or EPA is an Omega-3 fatty acid. It is found in its natural form in fish and fish oil. Is essential for the human body, although this is unable to produce it in enough quantities—therefore we must obtain it through our diet.

Among the benefits of the EPA in the body are: an improved heart health and immune system, relieve of inflammatory disorders such as arthritis, asthma, and intestinal inflammatory diseases.

In terms of the heart, it is proven that EPA reduces triglycerides in plasma, improves blood circulation, controls blood pressure, and modulates the body’s anti-inflammatory response, which could prevent heart attacks.

The American Heart Association recommends that patients with heart problems ingest one gram of combined EPA and DHA essential fatty acids daily. For people with high triglycerides the recommended dose is between three to four grams of this combination. In the same way, fish oil lowers the risk of heart disease in patients suffering from diabetes.

Arthritis and joint health

Fish oil improves the natural anti-inflammatory response of the body, reducing join pain and inflammation. Inside the joint and muscular tissue, the EPA stimulates de production of eicosanoids, which naturally reduce inflammation. However, it could take some time after starting to take essential fatty acids to start feeling an improvement of the symptoms.

Fish oils are a healthy and effective alternative to alleviate inflammatory processes, with the advantages of not having secondary effects. It is better to initiate supplementation with therapeutic doses around the two or three grams of EPA and DHA combined, and then reducing the dose to maintain the benefits.

What is DHA?

Docosahexaenoic acid or DHA is an essential fatty acid naturally found in fish. It is essential for the human body, and as the body is unable to produce it, it must be obtained through our diet.

The benefits of the DHA are many: it is vital for the nervous system and the brain cells, where it improves the fluidity in the membrane and the neurotransmitting activity, improving learning capacity and memory. Every cognitive process is benefited from the DHA. Infants need DHA for proper development of brain, eyes, and the central nervous system.

DHA plays an essential role in maintaining good brain function. Its deficiency has been linked to dementia and some studies indicate that those people who incorporate DHA in their diets have a better cognitive function and maintaining better memory later in their lives.

Depression and emotional imbalances

DHA plays an important role in mental well being. Depression, bipolar disorder and suicide risk have been linked to DHA deficiency. Regular ingestion of fish oil helps to reduce depressive states, anger, aggression and anxiety—although not by itself. The American Psychiatry Society recommends taking one gram of EPA and DHA combined for conditions related to mental disorders.

Omega-3, Fish or Flaxseed?

The Omega-3 essential fatty acids are divided in two categories: those derived from vegetable sources such as flaxseed oil, which contain a shorter chain of   alpha-linolenic acid or ALA, and those derived from fish oil, which contain EPA and DHA, which have longer chains.

Many studies coincide in that the   most solid evidence inclines for the ingestion of EPA and DHA. At certain point it was considered that the human body could synthesize EPA and DHA from vegetable sources that contained ALA; but this conversation occurs in very rare occasions.

When diet is not enough.

Satisfying the daily requirements of essential fatty acids (500 mg of EPA and DHA) it is starting to become increasingly difficult, due to the growing concerns for the presence of toxins in the oceans.

In addition to this, Omega- fatty acids seem to predominate in our diet in the form of vegetable oils, processed foods and meat. This habits increase the requirements of Omega-3 fatty acids which are key to maintain balance in our bodies.

A very safe way to obtain the daily requirements of these essential fatty acids is through high quality supplements; which have been distilled for purity, which guarantees the absence of environment contaminants.

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