July 15, 2023

Essential Fatty Acids (EFAs) are important unsaturated fats required by the body. They play many important roles including being constituents of cell membranes, supporting the immune, cardiovascular, reproductive and nervous systems, and they are needed to manufacture and repair cell membranes. The body cannot manufacture EFAs, so they must be obtained through the diet. Depending on their dietary source, EFAs can be present in different forms. They can exist on their own, called “free fatty acids” or be bound into other molecules, such as triglycerides or phospholipids.

The two main families of EFAs are Omega-3s (derived from alpha-linolenic acid) and Omega-6s (derived from linoleic acid). Both Omega-3s and Omega-6s are essential, but having the correct BALANCE between them is important for good health. The recommended ratio varies among experts, and is contingent on an individual’s physical condition, but it is generally accepted that a healthy Omega-6:Omega-3 ratio is between 2:1 and 10:1.

Modern society currently faces a widespread problem of Omega-6/3 imbalance and Omega-3 deficiency 124.One hundred years ago, our cells contained substantial Omega-3s because the diet then provided naturally higher Omega-3 fatty acid levels. With the majority of the western diet now made up of processed foods, modified foods, fried foods or meat and fish raised on processed corn and soy foods (high in Omega-6), we are left with the fats that our modern diet provides, which are predominantly linoleic acid (Omega-6) and unhealthy fats.

Since 1909, according to the United States Department of Agriculture, Americans have more than doubled their daily intake of Omega-6s and, over the same time period, Omega-3s began disappearing from our food supply. A recent study found that the absence of Omega-3 fatty acids in the diet is responsible annually for up to 96,000 premature deaths in the USA alone 124. Even eating Omega-3 rich fish or linolenic-rich foods is unlikely to provide a sufficient amount of Omega-3 to combat this imbalance, hence the need for many to supplement their diet with Omega-3.