Essential fatty acids are polyunsaturated fats necessary for various biological processes that take place inside a healthy human. These fatty acids cannot be produced within the body, so they must be obtained from diet or supplements compulsorily.
There are mainly two families of fatty acids: Omega-3 and Omega -6. For normal cellular function, there should be a balanced consumption of fatty acids from these two groups. Over consumption of omega-6 fatty acids in the form of refined oil, meats and processed foods can disturb the balance of EFA in our body.
Various Benefits, Sources, Dosage And Deficiency Of Essential Fatty Acids (EFA)
Benefits of Essential Fatty Acids
Essential fatty acids play an important role in functioning of every system in our body. They function as metabolism boosters and omega-3 fatty acid is a particularly important fatty acid with innumerable health benefits. It helps in lowering blood pressure and improves our blood circulation, helps in maintaining normal blood triglyceride level and also contributes in normal functioning of the heart, brain and the vision process.
Omega-6 fatty acid, also known as linoleic acid, plays an important role in proper functioning of the brain and regulating metabolism and aids in production of hormones. Essential fatty acids also strengthen inflammatory responses; regulate pain and work to protect the cells of our body.
Sources of Essential Fatty Acids
Our body cannot produce or synthesize essential fatty acids. So it should be obtained from food sources. But you must get a balance of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. You can obtain essential fatty acids from variety of foods. The best sources of omega-3 fatty acids are fatty fishes like salmon, sardine, tuna and mackerel and fruits and vegetables like cantaloupe and papaya.
Dark green vegetables like kale, spinach, and broccoli are rich in omega-3 fatty acids. The omega -6 fatty acids can be obtained from nuts and seeds, and vegetable oils. Flaxseeds, walnut, pumpkin sees are good sources of omega-3 fatty acids. Hazelnuts, almonds, cashews and Brazil nuts provide both omega-6 and omega -3 fatty acids. Legumes like kidney bean, pinto and mungo beans provide both omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids in favorable proportions.
Recommended Dosage for Essential Fatty Acids
There is no recommended daily dose of fatty acid as such. However, for healthy adults, American Heart Association recommends eating fatty fish at least twice a week and suggests eating oils and other ALA rich food like walnuts, canola oils and flaxseed oils.
For adults with history of heart diseases, suggested dose of EPA and DHA is about 2 to 4 gm a day through supplements under physician’s guidance.
Deficiency of Essential Fatty Acids
Deficiency of essential fatty acids can manifest in the form of a number of health problems like poor memory, poor blood circulation, skin problem, depression and other mental and emotional health problems. During pregnancy, if infants do not get enough omega-3 fatty acids from their mother, there can be a risk of poor cognitive development and poor vision.
Sixty percent of brain is developed from omega-3 fatty acids (DHA). When a child’s diet contains insufficient amount essential fatty acids, he/she can have a risk of learning disabilities like poor attention, concentration etc. Deficiency of fatty acid has also been linked to heart disease and joint inflammation in some people.