The Benefits of Essential Fatty Acids
Oils contribute to our health and wellbeing in a vairety of ways.
Oils constitute a huge subject area and include monounsaturated (olive
& avocado oil) and polyunsaturated (walnut, sunflower, soya bean)
oils which we tend to use when cooking. Oils are important sources of
essential fatty acids (EFAs).
Benefits of essential fatty acids:
- shorten our recovery time after exercise
- growth enhancing
- promotes smooth skin
- speeds healing
- enhances immune functions
- reduces inflammation, pain and swelling (for conditions like arthritis)
- reduces platelet stickiness, blood pressure and premenstrual symptoms
belong to two main families, known as omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids.
Foods providing omega-6 fatty acids include evening primrose oil,
sunflower and safflower oils, borage oil, blackcurrant, canola, egg
yolk, dark green leafy vegetables, seeds and whole grains. Omega-3
fatty acids come from deep sea fish, linseed oil, dark green leaves,
nuts especially walnuts and egg yolks.
The EFAs are tagged
‘essential’ because our body cannot survive without them and they must
be consumed in our diet. The body cannot make essential fatty acids of
its own accord.
Omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids have multiple
roles in the body, one of the most important being a structural role in
our cell membranes. Every cell in the body is enclosed by a thin lipid
membrane which keeps the contents safe and contained. This membrane’s
components include essential fatty acids.
How do the major oils differ from each other in their applications/uses?
contains omega-3 fatty acids and has beneficial effects on blood
pressure, triglyceride levels, kidney function, inflammatory response
and immune function. It keeps our platelets from getting too sticky
(this reduces the likeliness of clots that can cause a stroke or heart
attack). It also has an artery protecting effect and reduces
inflammation of blood vessels and inflammation around joints.
Evening primrose oil contains
omega-6 fatty acids and helps with hormonal regulation. Its balancing
effect means it helps out with PMT, dry skin, pimples, eczema and
Cod liver oil is a rich source of vitamins A
and D and has traditionally been used for asthma, respiratory
conditions, immunity and bone development. It’s often given to children
to help prevent rickets and to encourage the development of a healthy
immune system, as well as to protect mucous membranes of the body.
Which oils are suitable for dry skin and why?
Evening Primose Oil (EPO)
is my first choice for eczema, dermatitis and cradle cap (topically).
When the skin condition has an inflammatory component which is also
linked to the hormonal cycle (menstruation or puberty) then EPO works
Deficiency symptoms include:
- eczema like skin eruptions
- loss of hair
- behavioural disturbances and learning problems
- susceptibility to infections (long term – immune dysfunction)
- poor wound healing
- arthritis-like conditions
- low metabolic rate
- heart and circulatory problems
Which oils are best for brain health and why?
best oils for brain heath contain a high amount of docosahexaenoic acid
(DHA), and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA). EPA and DHA are normal
constituents of our cells with DHA abundant in brain cells. They are
also found in the retina, adrenal glands, nerve transmitters (synapses)
and sex glands. The best dietary sources of EPA and DHA are cold-water
There has been a tremendous amount of research on DHA
levels and learning ability in children. I always recommend fish oils
for memory, mood enhancement and cognitive function. Children with
development problems such as dyslexia, ADHD, and autism respond very
well to fish oil supplementation. If there is an underlying hormonal
imbalance or skin condition like eczema, then I add EPO, too.
Under what circumstances should someone take an oil supplement daily?
be honest everyone would benefit from taking some form of essential
fatty acid: children need extra oils for their immunity, learning
ability and skin conditions; adults for their mood, pain management or
joints; and during pregnancy, menopause and menstruation, women will
benefit from taking a variety of high quality oils.
the goal here is a balanced intake of all of the health-promoting fatty
acids; using only one or two sources of fatty acids is not balanced and
results in suboptimal improvement, at best. In clinical practice, I
routinely use combination fatty acid therapy comprised of ALA, EPA,
DHA, and GLA for essentially all patients. The product also contains a
modest amount of oleic acid, and I encourage use of olive oil for
salads and cooking. This approach results in complete and balanced
fatty acid intake, and the clinical benefits are impressive.
According to a new American study, eating bacon, sausages, hot dogs
and other processed meats can raise the risk of heart disease and
diabetes by as much as 50%.
With heart disease, diabetes and obesity already major causes for
illness and death in Australia, it’s time that we cut out the
contributing factors and take control of our health. First step? Cut
out the bacon!