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 Essential Fatty Acids: Dietary Fats and Essential Fatty Acids  

There is evidence that a deficiency of omega-3 oils is associated with various skin disorders, arthritis and joint stiffness, prostate problems, irritable bowel syndrome, premenstrual syndrome, depression, phobias and schizophrenia. These oils have a short shelf life, and they are generally removed from our food supply through processing for manufacturers' convenience. Deficiencies are therefore common.

Trans Fatty Acids
Let's get back to trans fatty acids. In their natural state, edible oils exist in a specific three-dimensional spatial configuration referred to as cis. When oils are highly processed during hydrogenation with heat and catalysts, they are partially converted to a different configuration called trans. These fatty acids do not participate in the normal pathways of fatty acid metabolism. They actually block the conversion of the natural cis fats to their active metabolites. Partially saturated or partly hydrogenated oil almost invariably contains trans fats. Oils that have been made into margarine contain significant amounts of trans fats, although food processors have made recent efforts to reduce the trans fat content of some margarines. Most processed foods and baked goods contain partially hydrogenated oils, and there is now a significant amount of these abnormal fats in the Western diet. These fats increase the risk of developing heart disease and cancer more than natural saturated fats. In addition, trans fats interfere with normal immune function.

It is important to have the right amount of EFAs in the diet or as supplements. Be sure that you use any oils sparingly, because they also lead to excess caloric intake and weight gain.

The metabolism and clinical use of the essential fatty acids has been one of the remarkable developments in medicine in the past decade. The education of physicians regarding these oils is due in part to the work of two physicians, David Horrobin, MD, and Donald Rudin, MD, who have done research and scoured the literature and reported on the physiology of fats and oils. A recent book, Fats That Heal, Fats That Kill, by Udo Erasmus, is a thorough review of fats and oils.

Many open-minded clinicians who have tried these essential fatty acid supplements have been impressed with the results in their patients, and they are now an important component of nutritional therapeutics. On the basis of the research and the teaching of these doctors, I tried these treatments in my practice and found them to be beneficial for a variety of clinical problems. They are safe, easy to take, and relatively inexpensive.

Essential Fatty Acid Supplements

EPA stands for eicosapentaenoic acid, so it is obvious why we call it simply EPA. This is a fish oil concentrate that is rich in omega-3 oil that has already started its conversion to prostaglandin E3. Fish oils also contain DHA (docosahexaenoic acid), another omega-3 essential fatty acid, which has similar properties.

Fish oil supplements have been shown to reduce inflammation, especially in arthritis, and to reduce rejection reactions after organ transplants, without the side effects of some of the anti-rejection drugs. They also lower cholesterol levels and reduce platelet stickiness. This reduces the risk of clots inside the blood vessels. They can help with some of the symptoms of premenstrual syndrome, bowel dysfunction and mental illness. Fish oil supplements can lower cholesterol levels in the blood, help to lower blood pressure, and reduce excessive blood clotting (platelet activity). It is helpful in heart and blood vessel disease.

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 About The Author
Michael Janson MDMichael Janson, M.D., is past-president of the American College for Advancement in Medicine and the American Preventive Medical Association. He founded one of the first holistic medical practices in New England......more
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