Essential fatty acids

Two essential fatty acids are necessary for health. These are the polyunsaturated fats, linoleic and alpha linolenic acid. Linoleic acid is an omega-6 fatty acid and alpha linolenic acid is an omega- 3 fatty acid.

Essential for

• energy production

• cell membrane formation

• oxygen transfer from air to blood

• hemoglobin manufacture

• prostaglandin function


Symptoms of essential fatty acid deficiency may include fatigue, dry skin, immune weakness, gastrointestinal disorders, heart and circulatory problems, growth retardation, mental problems and sterility. It is likely that a lack of dietary essential fatty acids plays an important role in the development of many common diseases, including cardiovascular disease, cancer, arthritis and asthma.

Essential fatty acidsSources

Omega-3 fatty acids are found in fish and oils such as flaxseed oil. Linoleic acid is found in safflower, sunflower and corn oils.

Daily recommended dietary intakes

An optimal amount of linoleic acid is around 9 to 18 g per day, while an optimal amount of alpha linolenic acid is around 2 to 9 g per day.

Toxic effects of excess intake

Toxic effects are unknown.


Magnesium, selenium, zinc, niacin, vitamins B6, A, C and E are necessary for the conversion of linoleic acid to other omega-6 fatty acids.

Therapeutic uses of essential fatty acids supplements

Supplements are used to treat cardiovascular disease, cancer, high blood pressure, arthritis, skin disorders, menstrual pain, diabetes and inflammatory bowel disease. They may also be beneficial during pregnancy and breastfeeding.

Essential fatty acid deficiency may adversely affect immune function and supplements may be useful in promoting optimum function. Studies on the immune T cells in cancer patients taking fish oil capsules suggest that omega-3 fatty acids bring about beneficial changes. Essential fatty acids are also used to treat autoimmune disorders.

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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



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