Fatty Acids are the basic building blocks of
which fats and oils are composed. Contrary to popular myth, the body
does need fat. It must be the right kind, however.
The fatty acids that are necessary for health and that cannot be made by
the body are called essential fatty acids or polyunsaturates. EFAs must
be supplied through the diet.
acids have desirable effects on many disorders. They improve the skin
and hair, reduce blood pressure, aid in the prevention of arthritis,
lower cholesterol and triglyceride levels, and reduce the risk of blood
clot formation. They are beneficial for candidiasis, cardiovascular
disease, eczema, and psoriasis. Found in high concentions in the brain,
EFAs aid in the transmission of nerve impulses and are needed for the
normal development and functioning of the brain. A deficiency of
essential fatty acids can lead to an impaired ability to learn and
Every living cell in the
body needs essential fatty acids. They are essential for rebuilding and
producing new cells. Essential fatty acids are also used by the body for
the production of prostaglandins, hormone-like substances that act as
chemical messengers and regulators of various body processes.
There are two basic categories of essential fatty acids, designated
omega-3 and omega-6. Omega-6 EFAs, which include linoleic and
gamma-linolenic acids, are found primarily in raw nuts, seeds, and
legumes, and in unsaturated begetable oils, such as borage oil, grape
seed oil, primrose oil, sesame oil, and soybean oil. Omega-3 EFAs,
including alpha-linolenix and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), are found in
fresh deepwater fish, fish oil, and certain vegetable oils, among them
canola oil, flaxseed oil, and walnut oil. In order to supply essential
fatty acids, these oils must be consumed in pure liquid or supplement
form and must not be subjected to heat, either in processing or cooking.
heat destroys essential fatty acids. Worse, it results in the creation
of dangerous free radicals. If oils are hydrogenated (processed to make
the oil more solid, as is commonly done in the production of margarine),
the linoleic acid is converted into trans-fatty acids, which are not
beneficial to the body.
The daily requirement
for essential fatty acids is satisfied by an amount equivalent to 10 to
20 percent of total caloric intake. The most essential of the essential
fatty acids is linoleic acid.
A number of
sources of essential fatty acids are recommended in this book, among
them fish oils, flaxseeds and flaxseed oil, grape seed oil, and primrose
Fish oil is a good source of
omega-3 essential fatty acids. Salmon, mackerel, menhaden, herring, and
sardines are good sources of fish oil because they have a higher fat
content and provide more omega-3 factors than other fishes. For
instance, 4 ounces of salmon contains up to 3,600 milligrams of omega-3
fatty acids, while 4 ounces of cod (a low-fat fish) contains only 300
Carlson Laboratories markets a good
Norwegian salmon oil that we recommend. Cod liver oil from Norway is the
most commonly used fish oil, and is more mild tasting than other
varieties. Author Dale Alexander claims it is excellent for arthritis.
He has marketed an oil containing 13,800 international units of vitamin
A and 1,380 international units of vitamin D per tablespoon. However, we
do not recommended that you rely on cod liver oil as a source of the
essential fatty acids. You would have to overdose on vitamins A and D to
obtain the amount of fatty acids you need.
People with diabetes should not take fish oil supplements because of the
high fat content, but they should consume fish for its essential fatty
Flaxseeds and Flaxseed Oil
are rich in omega-3 essential fatty acids, magnesium, potassium, and
fiber. They are also a good source of the B vitamins, protein and zinc.
They are low in saturated fats and calories, and contain no cholesterol.
The nutty taste of ground flaxseed is pleasant, and they can be mixed
with water or any fruit or vegetable drink. They can also be added to
salads, soup, yogurt, cereals, baked goods, or fresh juices. You can
grind these tiny seeds in a coffee grinder.
you prefer not to eat the seeds, you can use flaxseed oil as an
alternative. Like the seeds from which it is extracted, organic
cold-pressed flaxseed oil is rich in essential fatty acids. Several
studies have shown that it can reduce the pain, inflammation, and
swelling of arthritis. It also has been found to lower blood cholesterol
and triglyceride levels, and to help reduce the hardening effects of
cholesterol and cell membranes.
Grape Seed Oil
Of the many natural sources of essential fatty acids, grape seed oil is
among the highest in linoleic acid and among the lowest in saturated
fats. It contains no trans-fatty acids, no cholesterol, and no sodium.
It has a light, nutty taste that brings out the flavor in many foods.
Unlike most other oils, it can be heated to temperatures as high as
485?F without producing dangerous and possibly carcinogenic free
radicals. These features make it good for use in cooking. Buy only grape
seed oil that is cold-pressed and contains no preservatives, such as
Salute Sant?Grapeseed Oil from Lifestar International.
Primrose oils (also known as evening
primrose oil) contains the highest amount of gamma-linolenic acid (GLA)
of any food substance. This fatty acids is known to help prevent
hardening of the arteries, heart disease, premenstrual syndrome,
multiple sclerosis, and high blood pressure. It relieves pain and
inflammation; enhances the release of sex hormones, including estrogen
and testosterone; aids in lowering cholesterol levels; and is beneficial
for cirrhosis of the liver.
Many women have
found that primrose oil supplements relieve unpleasant menopausal
symptoms such as hot flashes. Because it promotes the production of
estrogen, women suffering from breast cancer that is estrogen related
should avoid or limit their intake of primrose oil. Black currant seed
oil is a good substitute.
Combination EFA supplements
A product called Ultimate Oil, from Nature's Secret, contains a blend of
cold-pressed organic oils that offers a good balance of both omega-3 and
omega-6 fatty acids. A purely vegetable-based product, Ultimate Oil
contains extra-virgin flaxseed oil, black currant seed oil, pumpkin seed
oil, lecithin, and safflower oil. We also recommend Kyolic-EPA from
Wakunaga of America, a blend of aged garlic extract and fish oil derived
from northern Pacific sardines, and Cardiovascular Research's Essential
Fatty Acid Complex.