What Are Essential Fatty Acids and Why Are They Important?

Essential fatty acids are made up of various combinations of hydrogen, carbon and oxygen. Studies have shown that we need around 20 different fatty acid combinations in our body for various functions but they are all basically made from two fats – linoleic and linolenic acid. These two fats are called essential because the body cannot make them. We must get them from the foods we eat or the supplements we take.

The different combinations of essential fats are used to make healthy strong and flexible cell membranes. Essential fats also comprise many of the body’s hormones and chemical messengers that signal the body what to do and when to do it.

The essential fats that comprise the linoleic family are what are called Omega-6 fatty acids. The Omega-3 fatty acid group is made up of linolenic fatty acids. The way the molecules are constructed determines which type of fatty acid is made.

One kind of hormone-like building block in the body is called prostaglandins. They are made up of different combinations of Omega-3 and Omega-6 essential fats. Prostaglandins influence all kinds of activities in your body from your body temperature, to your blood pressure, your heart activity, your kidneys, your digestive system, your body inflammation, body pain, even swelling regulation. They regulate blood clotting and allergic reactions, in addition to making other hormones.

Essential fats affect blood viscosity as they are blood thinners that can help prevent strokes, heart attacks and blood clots. They contain compounds that provide natural anti-inflammatory protection from diseases like arthritis, gastric reflux and all sorts of auto-immune diseases.

Boosting your intake of essential fats can relieve dandruff, itchy scalp, brittle, splitting nails, split ends and frazzled hair, dry scaly skin, even fine lines and wrinkles.

One of the great benefits of taking essential fatty acids is the improvement in your digestion. Essential fats improve the ruggedness, durability and robustness of the digestive and absorptive cells, including the villi in the digestive tract. When the digestive tract is working optimally, foods digest more efficiently, nutrients absorb better, there are less leaky gut issues, all of which results in better health.

Essential fatty acids contain compounds that inhibit tumor activity. This is important for those prone to cancers and other abnormal growths. Numerous scientific studies support the supplementation with essential fatty acids to reduce the potential for tumor growth.

If you want to have sharp thinking and remember the things you want to remember, supplement your diet with foods rich in essential fats. The brain is approximately 60 percent fat and most of it is made up of DHA, an Omega-3 fatty acid.

DHA is also the predominant fat in breast milk to help babies develop healthy eyes and brains. Research shows that DHA seems to stimulate linking of brain cells to each other, making message transmission more efficient and effective. There is also high concentrations of DHA in the retina of the eye.

Increasing Omega-e fatty acids in the diet has been shown in studies to reduce symptoms of dementia, memory loss, depression, mood swings, Alzheimer’s disease and vision problems. Purdue University has done studies that show that supplementing children diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactive disorder reduces their agitation and improve their ability to sit still and concentrate.

As you can see, essential fats are like a multi-tool, with a myriad of applications. You can add essential fatty acid rich foods to your diet or you can supplement with a product from your local health food store. Check with your health care professional who can assist you to make sure you are getting enough in your diet.