The fats are a series of compounds having in common being insoluble in water and soluble in certain organic solvents. Fatty acids are part of the composition of fats and exert several key functions in the body, and are an important source of energy, an essential component of all cell membranes and are involved in the control and regulation of a variety of vital processes such as blood coagulation, inflammatory response, regulation of body temperature, the normal brain function, or health of the skin, nails and hair, among many other functions. There are also different types of fatty acids, which are grouped into three families as;
Essential Fatty Acids
Some fatty acids are called essential because the body cannot synthesize them, so it is necessary to get them from food. They are alpha-linolenic acid (omega-3 family) and linoleic acid (omega-6 family).
Alpha linolenic acid are found in fish, flax seeds, green leafy vegetables, canola oil and nuts.
Linoleic acid is found in the oils of sunflower, safflower, sesame, corn, evening primrose and borage.
Benefits and Properties of Omega-3
The main research on the effects of fatty acids has focused on omega-3 fatty acid, having clearly shown to reduce the risk of heart disease. The American Heart Association recommends eating fish at least twice a week, especially fatty fish such as mackerel, trout, herring, sardines, salmon and albacore.
Consumption of omega-3 reduces inflammation and can help reduce the risk of chronic diseases like cancer, arthritis and heart disease. These fatty acids are found in high amounts in the brain and appear to play an important role in cognitive functioning. In fact, children who have not received enough omega-3 fatty acids during their pregnancy have a higher risk of vision problems and nervous system.
Importance of Balance between Fatty Acids
For fatty acids to exercise their function properly is very important, they not only exist in sufficient quantities, but there is a proper balance between the amounts of omega-3 and omega-6. The first ones helps reduce inflammation, while omega-6 fatty acids stimulate inflammatory reaction.
A healthy diet, like the Mediterranean diet, helps maintain this balance because it contains omega-3 rich foods such as whole grains, fresh fruits and vegetables, olive oil, fish, or garlic. However, in many Western countries, the food has a much higher content of omega-6 to omega-3. This imbalance is due to various reasons such as the following;
- Decrease consumption of foods rich in omega-3
- Consumption of refined grains instead of grains
- Increased intake of sugar which interferes with the metabolism of fatty acids
- Increased consumption of hydrogenated fats
- Nutritional deficiencies (vitamin B6, for example, which is necessary for metabolism of fatty acids).
- Increased consumption of drugs.
Major Fatty Acids
Alpha Linolenic Acid
We have already mentioned of it in the beginning of this article.
Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA)
It helps regulate inflammation, immune system, circulation and blood clotting. It is found mainly in the fatty fish.
Docosahexaenoic Acid (DHA)
It plays an important role in the development of brain and retina in infants. It also plays an important role in joint health and brain function. It is found mainly in the fatty fish and eggs and also in some types of algae.
Acidogamma Linoleic (GLA)
It is involved in brain function, joint health and hormonal balance. It is found in borage oil and evening primrose oil.
Symptoms of Deficiency or Imbalance of Fatty Acids
- Dry and/or cracked skin
- Dry eyes
- Dry hair
- Soft and brittle nails
- Excessive thirst
- Wounds that are slow to heal
Diseases Associated with the Lack or Imbalance of Fatty Acids
- Hair loss
- Memory problems
- Bipolar disorder
- Macular degeneration
You can see omega-3 fatty acids are essential for a healthy body and mind, so incorporate them in your diet and visit Mens Weekly for further tips about healthy diet and nutrition.