One A Day EPA and GLA – Fatty acids are the basic structural units of lipids. Lipid is the general term which refers to dietary fat. The body can synthesise many fatty acids. However, those which it cannot manufacture in adequate amounts must be obtained from the diet, and are termed essential fatty acids (EFAs) Fatty acids can be saturated, monosaturated or polyunsaturated depending on the degree to which the basic carbon chain of the molecule is filled with hydrogen. The two essential fats are defined as linolenic- an omega-3 fatty acid, and linoleic acid – an omega-6 fatty acid.
EFAs are found most abundantly in fish oils and unadulterated seed oils such as canola, sunflower and safflower oil. Flaxseed oil is an exceptional oil containing both essential fats in appreciable amounts. Flax, also known as linseed, is nature’s richest source of omega-3 fatty acids. Cold salt-water fish such as herring, haddock, cod, mackerel and salmon are also rich in omega-3 polyunsaturates and serve as the source of fish oil supplements.
It has been recognised that EFAs have profound beneficial effects on the body and influence hormone production, immunity and cardiovascular health. Deficiencies of these various fatty acids have been associated with hormonal imbalance and degenerative disease. Fatty acids maintain the structure and function of the cellular and sub-cellular membranes. Cholesterol transport, degradation and removal from the body is regulated by EFAs, and prostaglandins, which function to promote smooth muscle contractions, reduce blood pressure, regulate gastric secretions and influence other hormones, are influenced by them. EFA’s are important for normal growth and they keep the skin and other tissues youthful and supple via their lubricating capacity