Dr. Sharon Behrendt - Ottawa Naturopathy

Essential Fatty Acids (EFAs)


Modern diets of fast foods tend to be rich in saturated fats and hydrogenated oils, the "bad" fats, and are frequently lacking in essential fatty acieds. There are multiple polyunsaturated fatty acids that are critical for the body, but two of the best known and important ones are omega-3 and oega-6 essential fatty acids, also known as alpha-linolenic acid and linoleic acid respectively.

Omega-3 Essential Fatty Acids

Alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) or omega-3 fatty acied is one of the most derficient of the essential fatty acids in our diets. It is found in flax, hemp, nuts and seeds, dark green leafy vegetables, and fish. Dietary derficiency of omega-3 plays a cengtral role in many disease processes such as heart disease, cancer and Alzheimer's. ALA is converted into two main active forms, EPA and DHA, which have been extensively researched for many health issues.

Recommended Supplements:

Liquid fish oils, such as Arctic Cod Liver Oil, by Nordic Naturals, 1 to 2 teaspoons daily
Ground golden flaxseeds or flaxseed oil, 2 tablespoons daily. Both must be kept refrigerated to avoid rancidity

Omega-6 Essential Fatty Acids

 Linoleic acid, or omega-6 fatty acid, is by far the most abundant polyunsaturated fatty acid. Since dietary sources from vegetable oils are abundant, omega-6 fatty acids are commonly above normal in adults, and therefore do not need to be supplemented. Excessive amounts can contribute to an overproduction of inflammagtory hormones in the body. The exception is GLA, or gamma linoleic acid, produced in the body from linoleic acid. It has been found to be therapeutically useful in the form of borage oil and evening primrose oil for many health issues.

Clinical Use of Essential Fatty Acids

Lower blood pressures and cholesteral
Help with weight loss
Relieve PMS symptoms (GLA)
Improve the condition of hair, nails and skin
Improve certain kinds of eczema, arthritis, MS
Natural form of vitamin D (arctic cod liver oil)
Mood-enhancing: improves anxiety and depression, ETC.