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Essential Fatty Acids, Especially Omega 3s, Are Essential For Good Health
Essential fatty acids (EFAs) are called 'essential' because the body cannot manufacture them. EFAs are, as the name implies, essential for the body and must be obtained from food. Linoleic fatty acid (omega-6) and alpha linolenic fatty acid (omega-3) are essential fatty acids. They must be consumed in the diet in order for the body to manufacture other omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids.
Omega-6, one of the essential fatty acids, is necessary for growth, skin health, fertility, and maintaining red blood cell structure. Omega-3 fatty acids are necessary for the structure and function of cell membranes, especially in the retina of the eye and for the central nervous system.
The essential fatty acids omega-3 and omega-6 are polyunsaturated fatty acids. A polyunsaturated fatty acid contains two or more carbon-carbon double bonds. The standard American diet (SAD) provides a ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids anywhere from 20:1 to 25:1. Although omega-6 is necessary, the SAD provides too much in relation to omega-3. Some researchers think the ratio should be 4:1 or lower. In Gods early creation, man existed on a ratio of 1:1.
Since the 1960s, America's consumption of omega-6 essential fatty acids has almost doubled. It has been estimated that 100 years ago Americans consumed 60 percent omega-6 and 40 percent omega 3 oil, a perfect ratio of 1.5:1. Today America's consumption of omega-6 is an astounding 95 percent! Excess omega-6 fatty acids are stored in the body as fat.
Here are the omega-6 to omega-3 ratios in the popular vegetable oils today:
safflower oil- 77:0 sunflower oil- 63:0 corn oil- 26:1 soybean oil- 7:1 peanut oil- 17:1 canola oil- 2:1 cottonseed oil- 50:0.
The primary sources of omega-6 fatty acids are vegetable oils such as sunflower, corn, safflower, cottonseed, soybean, and peanut. Omega-3 fatty acids are predominately fish acids. Fish such as salmon (Wild Alaskan or Pacific), anchovies, herring, sardines, rainbow trout, shellfish, tuna, bluefish, mullet, sturgeon, and atlantic mackerel are good sources.
Following is a list of three groups of fish, and their omega-3 percentage content:
Krill oil is an excellent source of essential fatty acids. Krill oil comes from the depths of the ocean. The marine animal from which this oil is derived is the family of planktonic crustaceans and is rich in omega-3 fats, phospholipids (a class of fats formed from (a) fatty acids (b) a negatively charged phosphate group (c) nitrogen with alcohol and (4) a backbone) and antioxidants. The phosphate bonding in Krill oil allows the omega-3 fats to penetrate into the nervous tissue and produces an enhanced result over omega-3 fats which are not bonded.
See Krill Oil.
Omega-3 fatty acids are also present in some plants. The omega-3 fatty acid from plants are in the form of alpha-linolenic acid (ALA.) The only caveat is that ALA must be converted by the body into EPA or DHA. The bodys ability to perform this conversion depends on several factors. General health, age, stress, diet and even genes all influence the bodys capability to perform this conversion. In general, women are better able to make the conversion than men.
Alpha-linolenic acid is found in nuts such as almonds and walnuts. It is also in flaxseed and pumpkin seeds, and vegetables such as spinach, collard and mustard greens, kale and broccoli. The richest plant source of ALA is flaxseed oil.
The omega-3 fatty acids (EPA and DHA) found in fish and other marine animals consist of long molecular chains. They are more efficiently absorbed and utilized in the body. Longer-chained omega-3 have been found to reduce arterial plaque, promote blood vessel dilation, lower triglyceride levels, and protect against heart disease. The omega-3 found in plants and nuts are short-chained.Healthy living > Nutrition > EFAs