Essential Fatty Acids Benefits For the Body & Human Brain

Two classifications of fat are – Saturated and unsaturated fatty acids. Saturated fats, are solid at room temperature.

It used to be touted as standard that saturated fats are extremely damaging to general health, but in particular, heart health. This is because they increase the amount of cholesterol in the arteries.

vegetable oils unhealthy
Link to Study here

This does not appear to be the case with everyone however. Inflammation appears to be the pre-cursor to many diseases, including heart disease – for most individuals. The only way to confirm whether or not it is definitely safe for you to eat high levels of saturated fat, is to have genetic testing done (costs around £100) with a company like 23 and me (not an affiliate of ours by the way).

The actual process, whether or not it starts because of inflammation or high cholesterol is know as “atherosclerosis”. When this occurs the arteries become more and more blocked as more and more cholesterol is deposited.

It also used to be thought that unsaturated fats (mono- and polyunsaturated), have many positive health outcomes. However, it is now known that vegetable oils that are heated & not cold pressed for extraction, are actually damaging to health and highly toxic.

Another Sensational Headline About Nutrition

Omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids are essential polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA’s), which cannot be made from scratch by body cells; nor can the cells convert one to the other. They must be provided by the diet. 

Essential fatty acids (EFA’s) have many very important functions, most notably as acting like hormones, regulating blood pressure, blood clot formation, blood lipids, the immune response, and the inflammation response to injury and infection. In addition, EFA’s also serve as structural parts of cell membranes, constitute a major part of the lipids of the brain and nerves, and are essential to normal growth and vision in infants and children. 

Omega-6 vs. Omega-3 Fatty Acids 

The omega-6 fatty acid, linoleic acid, is found in many popular vegetable oils and is consumed in excess in our society. This could lead to significant health problems because a high consumption of linoleic acid can lead to an increase in the production of eicosanoids that are involved in inflammatory, cardiovascular, and immunological diseases. 

The omega-3 fatty acid, alpha-linolenic acid, is not as abundant as linoleic acid but it is readily available in most health food stores. Unfortunately, because it is not as easy to locate as linoleic acid, alpha-linolenic acid is not consumed in large amounts in today’s society.

This omega-3 fat has very positive health outcomes including some of the following: 

  • Decreasing risk for coronary artery disease 
  • Decreasing hypertension 
  • Improving insulin sensitivity for individuals with Type 2 diabetes 
  • Reducing tenderness in joints with individuals with rheumatoid arthritis 
  • Assisting with proper development of the brain cerebral cortex 
  • Assisting with proper retina formation for proper vision 
  • Decreasing inflammatory disorders 
  • Protecting against stroke caused by plaque buildup and blood clots 
  • Lowering triglycerides and raising HDL levels 
  • Biochemistry of Omega-6 and Omega-3 Fatty Acids 

The omega-6 fat, linoleic acid, is converted to arachadonic acid in the body. The omega-3 fat, alpha-linolenic acid, is converted to eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). EPA and DHA, found primarily in cold-water fish such as tuna, salmon, and mackeral, are the byproducts of alpha-linolenic acid oxidation that produce the positive health outcomes mentioned previously. 

Recommendations 

Omega-6 and omega-3 essential fatty acids are best consumed in a ratio of 3:1 to maximize positive health benefits. Unfortunately, the ratio that exists in modern Western diets ranges from 10-30:1. The reason such a low ratio is important is because the omega-6 fatty acids compete with the omega-3 fatty acids for the same desaturation and elongation enzymes.

And because Western culture diets include so many omega-6 fats compared to omega-3 fats, very little omega-3 fats are converted into the healthy EPA and DHA compounds. Eat more fish (wild fish, not farmed) and less vegetable oils.

Phospholipid Omega 3 & the Human Brain

Phospholipid 3 may be a potential ‘cure’ to the faulty gene that causes degenerative brain diseases. You can read more on Dr Rhonda Patrick’s website.

I personally use Salmon Roe / Salmon eggs for brain health, as well as a high EPA omega 3 fish oil.

More info here

Conclusions 

It is best if the body has more alpha-linolenic (omega-3) fatty acids in order to produce more EPA and DHA and less linoleic (omega-6) fatty acids, which produces arachadonic acid and overpowers the conversion of EPA and DHA. 

Eating cold-water fish 3-4 times per week and increasing the consumption of flaxseed oil is recommend. Beware of taking fish oil supplements as the research does not provide a clear message regarding their safety. Omega-3 fatty acids are among the most vulnerable of the lipids to damage by oxidation, and researchers are investigating whether individuals taking fish oil supplements may experience an increase in the potentially harmful oxidative reactions.

Supporters of taking fish oil supplements recommend taking between 3-10 grams per day for cardioprotective benefits. 




Foods with Essential Fatty Acids

Approximate EFA content in grams per 100 grams 

Omega-3 (g) 

Flax / Linseed oil 58 

Safflower oil 74 

Flax / Linseeds 15-30 

Grapeseed oil 68 

Walnut oil 11.5 

Sunflower oil 63 

Canola / Rapeseed oil 7 

Walnut oil 58 

Soybean oil 7 

Soybean oil 51 

Omega -6 (g) 

Wheatgerm oil 5 

Corn oil 50 

Sesame oil 43 

Canola / Rapeseed oil 20 

Please note that if vegetable oils are not cold pressed – they are not healthy, regardless of EFA content!

Disclaimer – for entertainment purposes only. Consult your doctor before changing your diet.

Read our Post About Exercise & High Blood Press by Clicking Here

About Drew

MMA, Fitness & Marketing enthusiast from North Wales, UK. A Stoic Hippy with no hair. Not to boast but - 1st Class Degree in Sports Science from Loughborough, MSc in Nutrition from the University of Liverpool. 20 years experience of weight & fitness training.
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