Best of the Low Carb Blogs
Sweet, Tart & Spicy!
Low Carb Thanksgiving Feast
How to Roast a Turkey
More Holiday Sides!
Essential Fatty Acids: 101
SIGN UP TO SUBSCRIBE
Of the many years I've been in the nutrition and alternative medicine industry, nothing I've
found has had a greater positive impact on our health than essential fatty acids.
Copyright © November 2006 Pete Maletto and Low Carb Luxury
These positive health benefits represent increased energy and weight loss, reduced chance of stroke
and heart attack, reduction of arthritis and inflammatory conditions, lowered blood pressure and
cholesterol. Essential fatty acids are even helpful in decreasing depression and increasing sex
drive. Yes, essential fatty acids are that... well... essential!
Fatty acids are the basic building blocks of fats and oils and how they are composed
to form a "complete fat." They cannot be made by our body, and are, in fact, the reason they are
called "essential." Indeed, every cell in your entire body requires these fatty acids, as
they are essential in the reproduction of new cells.
I recall sitting in Dr. Atkins' office in NYC many years ago. He looked at me and
said, "Pete, you should really try these." He threw a bottle of Essential Oils across the
desk (yes he actually threw it.) After glancing at the label I noticed it wasn't just fish
oil. This was very different formula — one he specifically formulated with fish, flax, and borage
containing Omega 3-6-9. Dr. Atkins boasted a confident smile and he said, "Try it. Tell me how
you feel in few weeks."
After two weeks, I was real believer in the amazing power of essential fatty acids.
Of course, the formula Dr Atkins put together turned out to be the most copied nutrition formula
ever in the dietary supplement industry. So what was it that made this specific combination of
essential fatty acids so particularly powerful?
The two categories of essential fatty acids are Omega 3 and Omega 6. Even though Omega
9 can also be considered essential, it isn't classified as such because our bodies can produce
Omega 9 from linoleic acid. Omega 3, such as those from flax and fish contain the main fatty
acids called alpha linolenic, eicosapentaenoic acid, and docosahexaenoic (ALA, EPA, DHA). Fish
oil contains very high concentrations of EPA and DHA where the flax profile produces favorable
amounts of ALA.
Of course, Omega 9 contains essential fatty acids called gamma linoleic acid (GLA) —
a very important nutrient that is closely involved in hormone regulation. GLA is
contained mostly in borage oil but is also found in another flower called evening primrose.
In some individuals, such as those with nutrient deficiencies, diabetes, or lipid metabolism
issues, GLA cannot be converted from linoleic acid, so it would always be wise to incorporate
borage oil in your flax and fish essential fatty acids program.
I remember Dr Atkins telling me that he had his patients taking too many pills daily
and the average client could never follow his fatty acid programs. He poked fun at his far-too-detailed
schedule of "Take 3 borage oil softgels, 2 fish oil softgels, and 4 flax oil
softgels, and yeah, that should do it."
To try to explain how fatty acids work in human biochemistry, allow me to get just
a little technical... We have hormonal paracrines called "eicosanoids," (pronounced eye-kos-a-noids).
These powerful "master" hormones are divided into two basic groups: the "good" and the "bad."
Other names for good and bad eicosanoids are: "prostaglandins 1" and "prostaglandins 2,"
abbreviated "PGE-1" and "PGE-2."
The good eicosonoids (PGE-1) produced from essential fatty acids correct blood
viscosity keeping platelets from sticking together and dilating blood vessels. This
eventually prevents cardiovascular diseases, strokes and heart attacks as well as increasing
delivery of nutrients to vital organs, optimizing health. The greatest benefit of PGE-1 is
the decreased inflammatory response it provides, crucial to so many of our bodies processes.
All this great "chemistry" also creates optimal lipid and carbohydrate metabolism, which boosts
energy and increases fat loss.
Elevated PGE-1 from essential fatty acids, specifically docosahexaenoic acid (DHA)
increases nerve transmission, essential in optimal mood and increased sex drive as well.
This increased nerve transmission is due to decreased inflammatory responses by PGE-1 and
prove beneficial in prevention of Multiple Sclerosis and Alzheimer's.
The bad eicosoniods (PGE-2) are produced from various poor environmental factors,
most of which we can control. One of these include a diet that is high in sugars, starches
and trans fats. PGE-2 is also elevated by smoking and exposure to chemicals in the air we
breathe and the foods we eat (you would be surprised what you expose yourself to every day).
This constant abuse over the years leads to thicker blood viscosity, which can become
detrimental to many hormonal processes.
PGE-2 elevation also is a major cause of cardiovascular diseases, such as heart
attack and stoke. It is the main inflammatory factor in rheumatoid arthritis (or any diseases
with "itis" at the end of their name), and is a critical factor in diabetes and pre diabetes,
as it slows pancreatic insulin response time in relation to blood glucose elevations.
Nerve transmission is also decreased by elevation of PGE-2. In fact, studies have
shown that patients that were depressed had elevated PGE-2 levels 2-3 times higher than
those not depressed. This is because elevated PGE-2 reduces the release and uptake of
"feel good" neurotransmitters such as serotonin, which can lead to depression.
On a happier note, for people trying to lose weight remember that including essential
fatty acids for elevation of the good eicosanoids accelerate the use of stored body fat.
Like mentioned before eicosanoids can be controlled by what we eat at each meal. For
example, high levels of bad carbohydrates decrease the production of good eicosanoids
and increase the production of bad eicosanoids as insulin/glucagon balance in our bodies'
effects eicosanoid production. Good proteins combined with high fiber and all-natural foods
produce levels of good eicosanoids.
To achieve the optimal eicosanoid balance, supplement your low carbohydrate diet
with an essential fatty acid formula from your local health food store. Of course, if
only more doctors would throw bottles of essential fatty acids at their patients, the
world would be a healthier place.
Chief Science Officer, DynaPure Nutrition