Essential Building Blocks For Health
You’ve probably heard of Omega-3, Omega-6 and Omega-9 fatty acids, but the building blocks for major body structures like cell membranes are essentially the first two fatty acids, n-3 and n-6. For this reason, they are considered essential for life and health, hence the term “essential fatty acids”. The body cannot produce them, so they must be obtained from food and essential fatty acid (EFA) supplements.
Our bodies are made up entirely of cells, each with its own membrane. Cell health and regeneration, normal growth and development, including healthy brain function, is dependent on Omega-3. A deficiency in this fatty acid threatens the health of our blood, bones, skin, organs, tissue and even hair. Health problems associated with this deficiency include:
• Inflammatory conditions like arthritis
• Mental and neurological disorders such as Alzheimer’s, depression, dementia
• Skin conditions like eczema and psoriasis
• Other ailments like stroke, heart disease, high blood pressure, cancer, adult onset diabetes, and allergies
Researchers have found that infants who do not get enough omega-3 fatty acids from their mothers during pregnancy are at risk for developing vision and nerve problems. Symptoms of Omega-3 fatty acid deficiency include extreme tiredness (fatigue), poor circulation, mood swings or depression, poor memory, dry skin, and heart problems.
Omega-3 can be found in fish oils and plant oils from green leafy vegetables and certain seeds and nuts, while Omega 6 is from a wide variety of foods, especially plant oils from vegetables and grains.
In the 1980s, Danish researchers studied the diet and health of the Inuits, or Eskimos. Their diet was rich in coldwater fish (salmon, sardines, mackerel, tuna, halibut etc) and the fat of whales and seals. These foods contain large amounts of Omega-3 fatty acids (EPA and DHA). Despite their massive fat intake, the Inuits had very low levels of heart disease – and low levels of rheumatoid arthritis as well. Fish oil has been found to decrease certain blood fats called triglycerides, raise the good cholesterol HDL, and thin the blood. Studies suggest that Omega-3 fatty acids also prevent fatal cardiac arrhythmia or heart attacks.
The traditional Japanese and Mediterranean diets are also rich in Omega-3 fatty acids. Followers of these diets are generally very healthy and enjoy long life.
The most important dietary essential fatty acid is linoleic acid, which occurs in large quantities in plant oils. However, linoleic acid is biologically inactive and cannot be used by the organism in its natural form. The body must first change linoleic acid into gamma linolenic acid (GLA). Sources of GLA include mother’s milk, evening primrose, blackcurrant and the medicinal herb borage. Flaxseed oil, hemp oil, evening primrose oil and olive oil are examples of supplementary Omega-6.
GLA facilitates production of the beneficial prostaglandin PGE1. Beneficial effects include:
• Reduction of cholesterol production
• Improvement of the activity of the immune system (primarily via its influence on the T-Lymphocytes)
• Reduction of the risk of blood clots by reducing the tendency of blood platelets to aggregate
• Regulation of blood vessels
• Expansion of the respiratory passages, and prevention of mucous formation, infections and asthma attacks
The Mediterranean diet has a good balance between Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids. Many studies have shown that people who follow this diet are less likely to develop heart disease. It also includes the Omega-9 fatty acid, which has been reported to help lower risks associated with cancer and heart disease. Omega-9 can be produced by your body as long as your diet is rich in the Omega 3 and Omega 6 essential fatty acids. The Mediterranean diet does not include much meat but, instead, is rich in foods like whole grains, fresh fruits and vegetables, fish, olive oil, garlic, as well as moderate wine consumption.
Food processing tends to remove or even destroy essential fatty acids. Omega-3 from fish and plant oils, for instance, are destroyed by heating and other processing methods. As a rule of thumb, remember that fresh, unprocessed foods are always nutritionally superior to processed foods. If you are unable to eat enough of foods like oily fish – a rich source of Omega 3 – and seed oils like flaxseed – from which you get Omega 6 – a complete, balanced supplement like Neways EFA Recovery Plus will help provide the essential fatty acids you need to keep your cells healthy.