Fatty Acids

The body can make all fatty acids except for two.  These two essential fatty acids are linoleic acid, the 18-carbon chain omega-6 fatty acid, and linoleic acid, the 18-carbon chain omega-3 fatty acid.  These fatty acids.  Omega-3 fatty acids decrease the risk of heart disease by preventing blood clots, decreasing irregular heartbeats, lowering blood pressure, decreasing inflammation, and supporting a healthy immune system.  These two fats must be eaten within the diet, since the body cannot make them.  The body can lengthen the chains two carbon molecules at a time to create the other members of their respected family.  The issue with this is that both of these fatty acids require the same enzymes to lengthen the chain, they are always competing for these enzymes. Unbalanced intake ratio between these who fatty acids cause the body additional stress.

Omega 6 fatty acids are found primarily in vegetable oils and meats.  Margarine, walnuts, pumpkin seeds, and mayonnaise all include Omega-6 fatty acids.  The primary fatty acid is the linoleic 18 chain molecule, but arachidonic acid which is a 20 chain carbon molecule important in the creation of eicosanoids causing inflammation.

Omega 3 fatty acids include eicosapentaenoic acid, a 20 carbon molecules (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA).  These are found within the eyes and brain and important for cognitive development, growth, anti-inflammatories, and the prevention of heart disease.  These are found in seeds, nuts, and fish. Flaxseeds and salmon are particularly high in Omega-3s.


Type of Fat Percentage of Diet Food Sources
Omega-6 least 2-3% of calories Sunflower oil, Evening Primrose Oil, Corn Oil, Flaxseed Oil, Canola   oil, olive oil, Tree Nuts
Omega -3 1-1.5% of calories Flaxseeds, Canola Oil, Walnut Oil, Soybean Oil, Fatty Fish (salmon,   sardines, herring, halibut)


Most Americans have a diet containing 9% of their calories from Omega-6 fatty acids.  Decreasing the amount of Omega-6 fatty acids in one’s diet can increase the amount of Omega-3s.  By increasing the amount of these powerful helpers, your body will decrease the risk of heart disease.  Keeping a healthy ratio of omega-6 and omega-3 is important as well.  Since both of these fats rely on the same nutrients to increase chain lengths, bad ratio leads to deficiency.  Keeping the range of 5:1 to 10:1 omega 6 to omega 3 seems to keep the body healthy


Enig, Mary, Ph.D. “Know Your Fats.” 2000. Maryland. Bethesda Press.

Understanding Normal and Clinical Nutrition, Whitney, Cataldo, Rolfes, Ninth Edition ISBN 0-534-62208-9 by Thompson Wadsworth

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