What are Essential Fatty Acids?

essential fatty acids

In this report we will talk about essential fatty acids, what acids, foods and functions contain the families of Omega 3, Omega 6 and Omega 9, and what are the factors that increase or reduce their action in the body.

The essential fatty acids ( EFAs ) are a type of lipid that our body cannot synthesize itself and therefore must ingest necessarily from the diet .

What are essential fatty acids?

The different types of fats needed for human life are classified as saturated , monounsaturated and polyunsaturated, depending on complex chemical bonds in which we will not enter this report (for more information visit fats in the body: functions, types and foods ).

From certain elements, the body can make saturated and monounsaturated fatty acids , but the essential fatty acids(which are polyunsaturated) we should ingest them from the diet .

Although these essential fatty acids are then grouped into families such as the Omega 3 and Omega 6 (which we will see next along with the Omega 9 ), in their most elemental form are:

    • Linoleic Acid (LA): It is found in green leafy vegetables, in vegetable oils such as corn, soy or sunflower, and in certain nuts and seeds. This acid is precursor of other fatty acids like linoleic acid and arachidonic acid (AA)
    • Alpha-Linolenic Acid (ALA): It is found in leafy vegetables, vegetable oils, nuts and seeds (especially flax) and fatty fish. It is a precursor of eicosapentanoic acid (EPA) and docohexanoic acid (DHA).

Omega 3 Fatty Acids

This family of essential fatty acids is one of the most beneficial to the body. However, our diets often contain higher levels of Omega 6 and low amount of Omega 3 fatty acids, so it is convenient to routinely include in the diet food containing them.

    • Types of acids containing

      Omega 3 fatty acids contain or are precursors to ALA, EPA and DHA acids (check the acronym in the previous paragraph). These fatty acids are precursors of the prostaglandins PGE3 , a type of hormonal substance with numerous and essential functions in the body.

    • Food they are found in

      The foods most rich in Omega 3 are the fatty fish of cold waters like the salmon, the tuna, the sardines and the mackerel . Also contain Omega 3 some leafy vegetables, nuts and oilseeds. Especially the flax seeds .

    • Action in our body

      These essential fatty acids exert a very beneficial work in cardiovascular health , regulation of fats ( cholesterol and triglycerides), disorders of the nervous system and brain and in skin conditions .

If you want more information, you can consult our report Omega 3: Properties, Food and Supplements

Omega 6 Fatty Acids

Since Omega 6 fatty acids are present in animal flesh (lean meat and viscera), it is often more in the diet in the face of a shortage in Omega 3 . In addition, just as Omega 9 does not interfere with the assimilation of other fatty acids, Omega 3 and Omega 6 do compete when they are metabolized . That is, an excess of one implies the lack of the other. That is why meat products should be reduced and vegetable products, especially Omega-3-rich products should be added.

    • Types of acids containing

      Omega 6 fatty acids contain or are precursors of linoleic acid ( LA ) and arachidonic acid ( AA ). LA acid is a precursor of prostaglandins PGE 1 , which perform important functions in the body in relation to cardiovascular health , hormonal and glucose metabolism with anti- inflammatory effects . However, AA (also present in animal flesh and saturated fats) is precursor of prostaglandins PGE 2, which act as a defense mechanism by performing a pro-inflammatory action (That is, they are necessary in small amounts, but negative if they are in excess).

    • Food they are found in

      The foods most rich in Omega 6 are vegetable oils such as sunflower , borage , evening primrose , meats and viscera , whole grains , and oleaginous seeds and nuts such as  sesame seeds .

    • Action in the organism

      These essential fatty acids, especially when they come from vegetable sources rich in linoleic acid, have anti- inflammatory and fat-balancing effects on the body (cholesterol), which leads to good cardiovascular health. In contrast, animal products rich in arachidonic acid , have proinflammatory properties and are related to skin conditions.

Omega 9 Fatty Acids

Although they are not considered essential fatty acids (since the body can synthesize them), these monounsaturated fatty acids that make up the Omega 9 deserve a special mention, especially for its properties beneficial to health and because, unlike Omega 6, its Intake does not interfere with the assimilation of Omega 3s, which is a factor to take into account.

    • Types of acids containing

      Omega-9 fatty acids contain oleic acid, a type of monounsaturated fat

    • Food they are found in

      Omega-rich foods include olive , almond , canola and walnut vegetable oils . Of course, we recommend that you use, as long as you can in the kitchen, the extra virgin olive oil for its extremely beneficial qualities for the heart and general health. Check which are the best oils for cooking .

    • Main Benefits

      The acids in the Omega 9 family are related to good cardiovascular health especially. In addition, HDL (good) cholesterol levels increase , which is essential to maintain lipid balance in the body.

Factors involved in AGE metabolism

As we have seen, essential fatty acids fulfill important functions within our body, in some cases directly, and in others, indirectly in the form of precursors that favor the synthesis of other substances.

For our body to perform these functions of metabolism, assimilation and synthesis of essential fatty acids , it is necessary to take into account some factors.

    • Factors that favor your activity

      Minerals such as zinc and magnesium and vitamins such as B6 , B3 , B8 or vitamin C

    • Factors that hinder your activity

      Saturated fats, processed products rich in additives , excess LDL cholesterol, diabetes and glucose related disorders, anancer and weakened immune system .

Undoubtedly, in order to maintain health , it is not only essential to provide good levels of essential fatty acids(especially Omega 3 and Omega 9 ), but also to include food in a balanced diet (see our healthy example of Breakfast, lunch and dinner ), moderate exercise regularly, sleep well , enjoy good doses of love , practice meditation and keep in touch with vitamin N, that is, Nature

Omega 3: Properties, Food and Supplements

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