The Importance of Omega-3 Essential Fatty Acids
Essential fatty acid foods especially foods that contain eicosapentaenoic acid, a major polyunsaturated fatty acid found in fish oil, interfere with the body’s production of inflammatory chemicals, more specifically arachidonic acid, the chemical which causes inflammation in conditions such as eczema, psoriasis and arthritis.
Animal experiments and clinical intervention studies indicate that omega-3 essential fatty acids have anti-inflammatory properties and, therefore, might be useful in the management of inflammatory and autoimmune diseases.
What Exactly Are Essential Fatty Acids?
Essential fatty acids are just what their name implies; fats that are essential for basic bodily functions, like seeing, hearing and reproduction. These are the good fats. Without these vital fats you would not even be able to move a muscle!
“Essential” simply means that we must consume them in our diets and that our bodies cannot manufacture them from other dietary fats or nutrients.
Research suggests that a lack of essential fatty acids, ordinarily found abundantly in flaxseed oil fish oil and other unrefined polyunsaturated vegetable oils, plays a significant role in the development of such chronic degenerative diseases as heart disease, cancer, and stroke.
Many experts estimate that approximately 80 percent of the American population consumes an insufficient quantity of essential fatty acids. A recent study discovered that, in the USA, 25% of adults tested had so little Omega-3 fatty acid in their blood that it was undetectable. This dietary insufficiency presents a serious health threat to Americans.
In addition to providing the body with energy, the essential fatty acids linoleic and linolenic acid function in our bodies as components of nerve cells, cellular membranes, and hormone-like substances known as prostaglandins. Prostaglandins and the essential fatty acids play an important role in keeping the body in good working order.
Essential fatty acids are the main structural component of every cell membrane and every cell tissue. Every gland and organ requires its presence.
Research shows that EFA’s can improve various biochemical and physiological reactions in the body and enhance athletic performance. When present in adequate and balanced amounts
Essential Fatty Acids Will:
- Improve stamina and endurance
- Decrease recovery time and soreness after exercise and competition and speed the healing of injuries
- Improve protein and amino acid utilization to help build and maintain lean mass
- Decrease fat storage and production and support a good metabolic rate
- Improve oxygen uptake and utilization
- Optimize glandular function
- Decrease mild joint pain and strengthen bones
- Improve circulation and immune function
- Promote sleep and elevate mood Heighten reflexes and concentration
- Support glandular and organ functions
- Lubricate the joints
- Stimulate the production of fat digesting enzymes
- Help keep you warm
The body does not produce EFA’s; therefore, they must come from dietary sources.
There are two kinds of EFAs, omega-6 fatty acids and omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-6 is commonly known as, Gamma Linolenic acid, and omega-3 fatty acid is commonly known as Lionleic acid.
It is important to have an optimum balance between omega-6 and omega-3. The optimum balance should be a ratio of four to six percent more omega-6 than omega-3.
In North America our diets are typically in the ratio of 11 to 30 times more omega-6 than omega-3 fatty acids. This imbalance can lead to an array of chronic ailments such as autoimmune diseases, heart disease, some cancers, multiple sclerosis, and skin conditions such as eczema and psoriasis.
Receiving an adequate intake of Omega –6 fatty acids should not be of any concern, due to the fact that they are found in abundance in many common food products. The main focus should be on increasing your intake of Omega-3 fatty acids.
The key to health from fats lies in ingesting the essential ones in the proper ratio. This isn’t usually achieved as it has been shown that the average diet is far too high in omega 6 and dangerously low in omega 3 fatty acids. Another concern we face when choosing a source of EFAs is that the majority of oils found on grocery store shelves have been damaged by heat, light and oxygen and modern processing practices. These oils may no longer provide healthful EFAs and may even be harmful.
Research done on the Eskimo population of Greenland proved, that people who consume lots of omega-3 oils have much lower rates of heart disease, cancer, and various other degenerative diseases. Significant was the finding that these people have much lower rates of inflammatory diseases such as arthritis, asthma, and psoriasis. These findings have led researchers to conclude that omega-3 oils have certain very potent anti-inflammatory properties.
Omega-3 fatty acids have been extensively studied for their beneficial effects on high cholesterol levels, high blood pressure, stroke and heart attack, angina, arthritis, multiple sclerosis, inflammatory skin disorders, and inhibiting cancer formation and metastasis.
As stated earlier, it would seem that omega-3 oils benefit proper health by nourishing the cells of the body with the proper essential oils that are so sorely lacking in our typical American diet. It is no secret that Americans consume lots of meats and starches but pitifully not enough of green vegetables and fish, which are rich sources of omega-3 oils.
To learn more about the importance of EFAs, read the following very informative article titled: Essential Fatty Acids: Are You Deficient In These Key Nutrients? by Jade Beutler, R.R.T., R.C.P.