Let’s begin with “what is an essential fatty acid?” This refers to fatty acids required for biological processes, but does not include the fats that only act as fuel. Humans and other animals must ingest EFA’s because the body requires them for good health, but cannot synthesize them. Basically, you’re body needs to function properly with a consistent amount of EFA’s being consumed. There are two common fatty acids that are known to be essential for humans; omega-3 fatty acids and omega 6-fatty acids. We’ll learn more about those a little later on in the article, but now we’ll delve into what can happen if you have a lack of EFA’s in your body.
Now there is a health issue that arises with a lack of EFA’s, which is referred to as Essential Fatty Acid Deficiency. This effects our skin, hair and nails. A serious condition of this might lead to cardiovascular disease, auto-immune conditions or mental health conditions. Less severe signs and symptoms include dry, scaly, or flaky skin, small bumps on back of upper arms, dandruff, dull, brittle or unruly nails, dry mouth and eyes, and many more. Make sure to consult with a family doctor if you are experiencing any symptoms with concern.
What Benefits Do Essential Fatty Acids Have?
Like I said earlier, there are two important essential fatty acids that humans consume to keep several parts of their bodies healthy. Omega 3 and Omega 6 fatty acids are important int he normal functioning of all tissues in the body. Omega 6 fatty acids are derived from linoleic acid, which can be found in leafy vegetables, sees, nuts, grains and vegetable oils. A normal diet would require adequate amounts of Omega 6.
However, Omega 3 fatty acids require a little bit more planning in your diet considering where they come from and how they are formed. They are used in the formation of cell walls and assist in improving circulation and oxygen intake. These are also derived from linoleic acid, which can be found in many vegetables, beans, nuts, seeds and fruits. Many fish also have Omega 3 fatty acids, but many are saying the consumption of fish should be lessened compared to eating plant based foods.
Research has also suggested that high intakes of fish and omega 3 fatty acids are linked to a reduction rate of those who suffer from major depression. But EFA’s are extremely necessary for the following:
- The formation of healthy cell membranes.
- The support of healthy skin and hair.
- Proper development and functioning of the brain and nervous system.
- Very crucial for the transport and breakdown of cholesterol.
- Proper thyroid and adrenal activity.
- Regulation of blood clotting. Omega 3’s work to reduce clotting, where as Omega 6’s encourage it. This creates a balance between the two EFA’s.
- Keeps the production of hormones consistent.
- Regulation of blood pressure, liver function, immune and inflammatory responses.
There are many other ways of making sure you get these essential fatty acids into your diet, if you find it hard consuming some of these foods. Many supplements carry these two types of fatty acids. Flaxseed Oil, Fish Oils contain high amounts of Omega 3. Evening Primrose Oils contains high amounts of Omega 6 as well, however, you’re better off consuming foods with this EFA because not many supplements contain it!