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Essential Fatty Acids (Flax/Fish Oil)

Essential Fatty Acids

How Can Essential Fatty Acids Help With Anti-Aging, Skin Wellness & Health?

The Essential Fatty Acids area offers excellent to supplement your diet with Omega-3 fatty acids. This area includes the following categories:

By now, most of us have heard the message that Americans aren't getting enough of the health-promoting Omega-3 fatty acids in the foods we eat. As such, over the last several years we have been advised to supplement our diets with Omega-3 fatty acids, either from flax seed oil or fish oil. Many people are confused about which of the two is the best source of Omega-3s. As the following shows, the answer is both.

What are essential fatty acids or EFAs?

Our bodies require a number of essential nutrients to promote and maintain health. Although some dietary fats are considered harmful, two special types of fat are necessary for good health and youthful skin. These two fats (or fatty acids) must be obtained either through diet or supplementation, hence their name essential fatty acids, or EFAs. Both EFAs are polyunsaturated fats with one member, alpha-linolenic acid, belonging to the Omega-3 family and the other, linoleic acid, belonging to the Omega-6 family.

EFAs perform a number of vital functions in the body, but are particularly important at the cellular level because they are a fundamental component of the membranes of all cells. An adequate supply of EFAs in the diet is also essential for healthy-looking skin because skin cells turn over very rapidly.

In addition to their structural role, EFAs are transformed into key regulatory compounds called prostaglandins. Prostaglandins are hormone-like compounds that play a role in various bodily functions including inflammation, blood clotting, sodium/potassium balance, blood pressure and lipid metabolism. So-called �favorable� prostaglandins are associated with good health whereas �unfavorable� prostaglandins are associated with inflammation and disease, particularly cardiovascular disorders. In general, dietary consumption of Omega-3 fats promotes formation of favorable prostaglandins, whereas consumption of Omega-6 fats leads to the unfavorable or inflammatory prostaglandins.

Omega-6 and Omega-3 Dietary Patterns

Americans typically obtain an adequate amount of Omega-6 fats in their diet, specifically, the EFA, linoleic acid. This is because these fats are derived from common plants such as soybean, corn and safflower, which are widely available in our food supply. In contrast, most Americans do not obtain sufficient Omega-3 fats in their diet specifically, the EFA, alpha-linolenic acid. This is because these fats, which are found in flax seeds, walnuts and certain kinds of fish, are not as readily available in the food supply.

Importantly, the desired ratio of Omega-6 to Omega-3 fats in the diet should be about 2:1. Instead, the ratio in our diets is closer to 10:1. This dietary imbalance in fatty acids (excessive Omega-6 and insufficient Omega-3) is a fundamental underlying cause of many chronic diseases today, including cardiovascular disease, many cancers, most inflammatory diseases, and many psychological disturbances. Supplementing with flax seed oil can help to correct these dietary problems. As nature's richest source of alpha-linolenic acid (57%), consumption of flax seed oil helps to rebalance the proportion of Omega-6 to Omega-3 more closely to the desired ratio of 2:1.

Other Members of the Omega-3 Family: EPA & DHA

In addition to alpha-linolenic acid, the Omega-3 family also includes the fatty acids, EPA (Eicosapentaenoic Acid) and DHA (Docosahexaenoic Acid). As Omega-3 fats, both EPA and DHA promote the development of favorable prostaglandins. Although our bodies are able to convert alpha-linolenic acid to EPA and DHA, our ability to form these important compounds is limited. This is why these two fats are considered �conditionally essential�.

Certain types of fish and fish oil contain high levels of EPA and DHA. Supplementing the diet with these high-quality fish oils, leads to the production of health-promoting prostaglandins. In particular, EPA and DHA have been increasingly documented to benefit cardiovascular health by lowering cholesterol, making the blood less sticky, and decreasing the incidence of abnormal heart rhythms. This is an important consideration given that cardiovascular disease is the number one killer for both men and women in this country.

For these reasons, the optimum way to ensure that your diet has the correct ratio of Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids, and to increase levels of the favorable prostaglandins, is to supplement with both flax seed oil and fish oil.

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