Essential fatty acids play an important role in a number of metabolic processes. The human body cannot synthesize essential fatty acids and depends entirely upon outside sources. Taking essential fatty acid supplements in diet can ensure their appropriate levels in the body and help us lead a healthy and disease free life.
The fatty acids that are not synthesized by an organism’s body (specifically referred to humans), but are necessary to carry out various biological processes, are known as essential fatty acids. They are taken in from other animal and plant sources. Omega-3 essential fatty acids and omega-6 essential fatty acids are the two families of essential fatty acids.
Functions of Essential Fatty Acid Supplements
Essential fatty acids are the fats which do not play a role as an energy source to the body but are responsible for a number of vital biological functions. Following is a list of some of the functions where essential fatty acids are involved.
- Formation of lipid rafts, thereby affecting cell signaling.
- Absorbance of nutrients from the diet.
- Diffusing oxygen and lipids in the bloodstream.
- Regulation of transcription factors.
- Maintenance of cell membranes.
- Moderating the fluidity of cell membrane.
- Decreasing water retention.
- Strengthening the disease resistance capacity of the body.
- Formation of nervous tissues.
- Production of prostaglandins.
Prostaglandins are in turn responsible for regulation of biological processes such as rate of heartbeats, blood pressure, blood coagulation, fertility and conception. They also play a role in fighting antigens and reducing inflammations.
Natural Sources of Essential Fatty Acid
The richest food source of the essential fatty acids is the fish, especially cold water fish. Some examples are salmon, tuna, cod, herring, bluefish and shrimp. According to latest research on essential fatty acids, human body can absorb the essential fatty acids when they are available in the triglyceride form. Afterwards, the body converts the triglycerides into esters for its usage. Fish have the essential fatty acids in the form of triglycerides while fish oil has it in the ester form. So, it is better to eat fish instead of depending on fish oil.
However, fish oil will prevent you from the toxins and bad smell that is otherwise there. Other food sources rich in both omega-3 and omega-6 essential fatty acids are linseed, palm oil, coconut oil, lard, butter, rapeseed oil, soya oil, hemp oil, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, walnuts and leafy vegetables. Though, essential fatty acids can be derived from both the plant and animal sources, their absorption is more from the animals sources. Therefore, it is advisable for pure vegetarians to take higher quantities of the food items which will provide them with the necessary fatty acids as their low levels can lead to many disorders.
Symptoms of Essential Fatty Acid Deficiency
Essential fatty acids are responsible for carrying out a number of metabolic processes. They are required in lower quantities but are highly essential for the normal functioning of the body. Any decline in their level can lead to the following conditions.
- Type 2 diabetes
- Heart stroke
- Lack of concentration
- Dryness and itchiness of skin
- Alzheimer’s disease
- Hair loss
- Pain in the joints
The presence of any of the above mentioned disorders suggest a deficiency of essential fatty acids. You should consult a medical practitioner for confirmation. You can compensate the deficiency by taking synthetic essential fatty acid supplements. They are manufactured by pharmaceutical companies and are available in the form of capsules, soft gels and oils in the market. These nutritional supplements are based on fish oil. The intake amount of supplements is suggested by a medical practitioner as it varies from a healthy person to the one suffering from any sort of heart or mental sickness. If you are taking pharmaceutical grade fish oils directly, don’t cook it or you will lose the essential fatty acids present in it.
The omega-6 and omega-3 fish oil benefits are numerous. To mention a few, the adequate amounts of these supplements prevent teenaged girls from a number of premenstrual syndromes. They greatly reduce bloating, depression, breast pain and cramps. These supplements have also shown to relieve arthritis pain, psoriasis and eczema. They are also known to keep the heart healthy and prevent osteoporosis.
Make your diet complete by including the food items that provide you with the essential fatty acids and enjoy a healthy life. Remember, healthy eating is a key to a disease free life.