Why Do We Need Essential Fats?
They are called essential, because they have to be acquired your body cannot make them from other components. Every cell in your body requires healthy lipids to build its membrane, which is responsible for effective transport of nutrients in, and toxins out of the cell.
You need to ingest them as food or supplement. The greatest challenge with these fatty acids is their fragility: they are easily oxidized, they can turn rancid even at room temperature. You are probably familiar with their names: Linoleic acid (omega-6), linolenic acid (omega-3) and arachidonic acid (formed from linoleic and linolenic acids). There are multiple forms of omega-3 fatty acids including alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) which is a precursor to many other important omega-3 fatty acids. Gamma-linolenic acid (GLA) is from the omega-6 pathway.
Essential fatty acids (EFAs) are required in several functions:
- cell membranes: determine the fluidity and chemical activity of cell membranes
- hormones: enabling the synthesis of prostaglandins that regulate body processes including cardiovascular, immune and musculoskeletal
- metabolic function: energy production including oxygen use, electron transportation and rate of aging
- blood: red pigment hemoglobin
- digestive enzymes: production and application
- joints: make the lubricants that support movement
- nerves: signal transmission, heart control
- bones: formation and repair
- immunity: balance the immune system and prevent allergies
- structure: tissues of the brain, retina, adrenal glands and testes
- brain: signal transmission between neurons, memory and concentration
You need more omega-3 than omega-6 about double the amount, but the common diet delivers only small quantities of omega-3 fatty acids. Cooking (especially frying) destroys and food processing (especially refining) removes most of the essential fatty acids. The richest food sources of ALA are flaxseed and flaxseed oil, hemp seed oil, pumpkin seeds, walnuts and dark green leafy vegetables. Other important EFAs are eicosapentanoic (EPA) and docosahexanoic (DHA). EPA is needed for the prostaglandins and DHA is a critical nutrient for the brain, vision and nervous system.
The most common factors that inhibit the conversion of fatty acids to their usable forms include:
- trans-fatty acids (margarine, shortening, hydrogenated oils)
- high sugar or alcohol intake
- enzyme deficient diets (cooked and processed food)
Essential fatty acids, especially the omega-3s, are involved in inflammatory health conditions including cardiovascular conditions, arthritis and auto-immune diseases. The omega-3 oils are involved in preventing the rise in the bad cholesterol (LDL) and triglycerides. They also support the good cholesterol (HDL) helping to reduce the risk of developing heart disease. Gamma-linolenic acid (GLA) is often effective in the treatment of inflammatory diseases such as asthma, arthritis, allergies, dermatitis and eczema. It also reduces the symptoms of premenstrual syndrome like breast pain, bloating, depression and irritation.
EFAs play a role in every body process you cannot exist without them. If you don’t balance your intake of omega-3s to omega-6s, you can expect frequent injury, infection, chronic diseases and declining health. Your body needs the Essential Fatty Acids just seriously as vitamins, enzymes or minerals. Research confirms that EFAs are just as important for your brain as they are for your heart.
Dietary oils are an excellent source of healthy lipids. They have been vilified and miscast by misguided health authorities, and by successful lobbying by the grain producers. Traditional fats that are safe to eat are butter (and ghee), olive oil, coconut oil, hemp and flax seed oil. Animal fats (from well raised animals) that have not been fried are also fine. Cold water fish are an excellent source of healthy fats although you may want to take some zeolite to deal with the possible heavy metal contamination.
When you see a clear bottle of refined vegetable oil on the grocery store shelf, do you stop and ask yourself: What have they refined out of it? Were the seeds toxic? No, it was the quickly oxidating essential fatty acids that would make the oil taste rancid. So the oil is shelf-stable, but it now lacks the omega three and omega six essential fatty acids that your body urgently needs to maintain your cell membranes. So why do we need essential oils? When we are deficient in these nutrients, we suffer with inflammation and resulting pain, weight management is out of balance, and most cellular functions are compromised. We need essential fatty acids to maintain our skin, our weight, and regulate our metabolism.