The Importance of Fatty Acids

Health Tips
Last Updated Jul 28, 2020
Health Tips

Fatty acids, or essential fatty acids, are vital to the correct functioning of the body and because people cannot make these themselves, they must come from the diet.  There are two forms of essential fatty acids, omega 3 and omega 6.  There is another fatty acid called omega 9, but the body is able to make this on its own as long as omega 3 and omega 6 levels are sufficient in the body.

What do Fatty Acids do?

Essential fatty acids are important for a number of functions in the body.  They support the cardiovascular, nervous, immune, and reproductive systems of the body.  Essential fatty acids are necessary for making and repairing cell membranes, helping the cells to get maximum nutrition and expelling waste products.  Another thing that they do is help to make prostaglandins which regulate things such as the heart rate, blood pressure, the clotting of the blood, fertility, conception, as well as helping the body to fight infections.   Essential fatty acids are also necessary for the proper growth of children.  Notably, both omega 3 and omega 6 play a vital role in the function of the brain.

About Omega 3

Omega 3 fatty acids are used in forming cell walls, and improving circulation and oxygen uptake.  If the body is low in omega 3, there may be decreased memory or mental activities, poor vision, a tingling feeling caused by the nerves, reduced immune function, higher levels of bad cholesterol, learning disorders, amongst other things.

Omega 3 can be found in both animal and plant sources of food.  Some common sources include:

• flaxseeds and flaxseed oil
• avocados
• pumpkin seeds
• nuts
• oily fish such as salmon, mackerel or tuna
• dark, leafy green vegetables
• olive oil

About Omega 6

Omega 6 fatty acids are converted in the body from linoleic acid into gamma linoleic acid.  Omega 6 is able to improve conditions such as diabetic neuropathy, rheumatoid arthritis, PMS, and skin disorders.  Many people get more than enough omega 6, but they are unable to convert it within their bodies due to metabolic problems or problems caused by smoking, stress, pollution, viral infections, and other illnesses.

Omega 6 can be found in the following foods:

• flaxseeds and flaxseed oil
• grapeseed oil
• pumpkin seeds
• nuts
• olive oil and olives
• chicken
• evening primrose oil

About Omega 9

Omega 9 is vital to the body but it is technically not an essential fatty acid because the body is able to make limited amounts of it, provided there are sufficient amounts of omegas 3 and 6.  It can lower the risk of heart attacks and arteriosclerosis.

Omega 9 is found in:

• olive oil and olives
• avocados
• nuts
• sesame oil

Originally published on Apr 03, 2008

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