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Home > Essential Fatty Acids

Essential Fatty Acids

What are essential fatty acids?

Essential fatty acids are fatty acids that are needed for health but cannot be synthesized in our body.  They have to be obtained from diet.  Essential fatty acids are involved in many metabolic processes, including cell energy production, transmission of nerve impulses, cellular signaling, etc. They are also structural components of all cell membranes. 


Omega-3 and Omega-6 EFAs

There are two families of EFAs: omega-3 EFA and omega-6 EFA.  Omega-3 EFAs include alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). Omega-6 EFAs include linoleic acid, gamma-linolenic acid (GLA) and arachidonic acid (AA). Deficiency of essential fatty acids or improper balance of omega-3 and omega-6 EFAs are associated with a wide range of diseases, such as chronic inflammation, learning difficulty, cardiovascular diseases and cancer.

Deficiency of omega-6 EFAs is rare because they are abundant in meat and vegetable oils. Too much omega-6 EFAs such as arachidonic acids can be detrimental to health. Arachidonic acids (AA) are converted to inflammatory eicosanoids like PGE2 and the 4-series of leukotrienes in our body. These compounds can induce inflammation and suppress the immune response. 

On the other hand, omega-3 EFAs such as ALA, EPA and DHA can inhibit the production of PGE2 and 4-series leukotrienes. Although GLA belongs to the family of omega-6 EFA, it works more like the omega-3 EFAs to regulate inflammatory prostaglandins.


Why do you need EFA supplements?

Maintaining a proper ratio of omega-3 and omega-6 EFA is essential to health.  The modern Western diet is often very high in omega-6 EFA with a ratio of omega-3 to omega-6 at about 1:20 and 1:30. To achieve a better balance,  omega-3 EFA or GLA supplements are sometimes needed. The most popular sources of omega-3 EFAs are flaxseed oil and fish oil.  Evening primrose oil is often used to supplement gamma-linolenic acid (GLA).

Essential fatty acids are unsaturated fatty acids, so they are subject to oxidation.  Therefore, many commercial products contain vitamin E which can reduce oxidative damage.  Cold pressed oils are preferred over chemical extracted oils as they are free of chemical residues.  When choosing fish oil, it is important to ensure that the oil is free from heavy metals and chemical pollutants.


Essential Fatty Acid Supplements (Bestsellers):

Carlson Lab fish oil

The Very Finest Fish Oil Lemon Flavor - 16.9 Fluid Ounces Liquid - Carlson Laboratories

Carlson Lab fish oil softgel

Carlson Laboratories Super Omega-3 - 130 Softgels - Omega 3 Fish Oil

Nordic Naturals Ultimate Omega

Nordic Naturals Ultimate Omega - 180 Softgels

Flora Udo Oil Blend

Flora Udo'S Choice Oil Blend - 32 Fluid Ounces Liquid




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Disclaimer: The materials written for our website are intended for informational purposes only. They are not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice.

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