Essential Fatty Acids
The term 'essential' is deduced from Latin. Essential fatty acids are nutritional factors, discovered in 1929 at the University of Minnesota by George and Mildred Burr. Like vitamins, they are not synthesizable by the human body and therefore must be absorbed from food.
Essential Fatty Acids
We have already mentioned that essential fatty acids are nutrients that we must have to stay healthy. To really understand essential fatty acids, we must get down to the molecular level.
Omega Fatty Acids
The omega fatty acids are named according to the position of the first double bond in their carbon chains. Thus, the first double bond in the omega 6,s begins at the sixth carbon from the end of the chain. The first double bond in the omega 3,s begins at the third carbon position from the end of the chain. Once in the body both omega 6 and omega 3 fatty acids are bio chemically converted and control the body initially in two ways. First, they become incorporated into the cell membranes, and secondly they keep the cell membrane optimally fluid. If there are not enough omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids, these cell walls will incorporate saturated fatty acids and other lipids and become less fluid. In fact, essential fatty acids are the major building blocks of cellular membranes surrounding every cell in the body, know as lipid bilayers, because they are made up of two layers of fat. These fatty acid walls help to control the opening and closing of the cell's channels that allow the passage of important messenger molecules into and out of the cell. In a second pathway, the omegas convert to hormone-like substances called eicosanoids that influence metabolic activities, it is important that the body has an adequate balance. The recommended ratio is 3-5: 1 of omega 6 to omega 3 fatty acids.
OMEGA 6 OMEGA 3
Linolenic acid Alpha-linolenic acid
Gamma-Linolenic acid C 18.4
Dihomogamma linolenic acid C 20.4
Arachidonic acid Eicosapentaenoic acid
C 22.4 C 22.5
C 22.5 Docosahexaenoic acid
Essential Fatty Acids Functions:
So what do they accomplish in our systems? ...EFAs are involved in producing life energy in our bodies from food substances, and moving that energy throughout our systems. They govern growth, vitality, and mental state. They hook up oxygen, electron transport, and energy in the process of oxidation. Oxidation, the central and most important moment-to-moment living process in our body, is the `burning' of food to produce the energy required for life processes. EFAs are also important in oxygen transfer, hemoglobin production, and control of nutrients through cell membranes. They markedly shorten recovery time from fatigue. And EFAs are also key in preventing damage from hard fats. EFAs are anti-sticky and tend to disperse them. EFAs play a part in almost every function of our body, far too many to list in this article.