Fatty acids

What they do in the body

Fatty acids are involved in energy production, the transfer of oxygen from the air to the bloodstream, and the manufacture of hemoglobin. They are also involved in growth, cell division and nerve function. Complete essential fatty acids are found in high concentrations in the brain and are essential for normal nerve impulse transmission and brain function.

Cell membranes

Complete essential fatty acids are components of cell membranes. They are essential for many body functions; including oxygen use and energy production, control of the substances passing in and out of cells, cell to cell communication, and regulation by hormones.

Fatty acidsCell membranes are partly made up of phospholipids, which contain fatty acids. The type of fatty acids in the diet will determine what type of fatty acids go to make up cell membranes. A phospholipid made from a saturated fat has a different structure and is less fluid than one which incorporates an essential fatty acid. This loss of fluidity makes it difficult for the cell to carry out its normal functions, and increases the cell's susceptibility to injury and death. The relative amounts of omega-3 fatty acids and omega-6 fatty acids in cell membranes also affect their function.


Complete essential fatty acids are also involved in the manufacture of prostaglandins, substances which play a role in a number of body functions; including hormone synthesis, immune function, regulation of the response to pain and inflammation, blood vessel constriction, and other heart and lung functions.

There are various types of prostaglandins and these have different effects. Prostaglandins are divided into three main types; those of the 1 and 3 series are usually considered to have beneficial effects while those of the 2 series are usually considered to have harmful effects. EPA, the omega-3 fatty acid that is formed from alpha linolenic acid, is the precursor of the series 3 prostaglandins. Series 1 and 2 prostaglandins are formed from the omega-6 fatty acid, linoleic acid. It can be converted to DHGLA, the precursor of the series 1 prostaglandins and to arachidonic acid, which is the precursor of the series 2 prostaglandins. The types of oils in the diet, including the balance of omega-6 to omega-3 oils, plays a role in determining whether DHGLA is converted to favorable series 1 prostaglandins or to harmful series 2 prostaglandins.

Series 1 and 3 prostaglandins act to dilate blood vessels, reduce clotting, lower harmful LDL cholesterol levels, raise beneficial HDL cholesterol levels and have anti-inflammatory actions. Series 2 prostaglandins have the opposite actions. The balance of prostaglandins in the body is affected by diet and can determine whether a person is at increased risk of disease.

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Essential fatty acids
Saturated fats
Monounsaturated fats
Polyunsaturated fats
Omega 3 acids and omega 6 acids
Fatty acids
Fatty acids deficiency
Fatty acids foods
Fatty acids intake
Fatty acids supplements



Other Nutrients:

Essential fatty acids
Para-aminobenzoic acid
Pangamic acid
Coenzyme Q10
Amino acids
Lipoic acid
Shark cartilage
Digestive support
Betaine hydrochloride
Digestive enzymes
Fiber supplements