The Difference Between Essential And Non-Essential Fatty Acids
The fact that fats play an important role in a healthy diet is often overlooked by many. Fat has developed a bad reputation because of the various reports on the negative effects on health of nonessential fats and as a result some people mistakenly cut out all kinds of fat from their diets. The important thing to know, however, is that some fats are good for you while others are bad and it is vital to be aware of which type is good and which type is bad. Good fats are needed to build and support healthy tissue in your body and to promote and maintain healthy skin. Thus, it is a good idea to include the good fatty acids in your diet.
Types of Fats Found in The Body
Fats can classified into saturated fats and unsaturated fats. The unsaturated fats are further divided into monounsaturated fats and polyunsaturated fats, and there are further classifications like trans fats, cis fats and omega fatty acids. What it comes down to, is that saturated fats and trans fats, which a type of unsaturated fat, are generally considered to be bad for your health, while most unsaturated fats are good for you.
Meanwhile, based on whether the body can produce them, fatty acids can be classified into essential and non-essential fatty acids. The main difference between the two is that essential fatty acids cannot be produced by the body and have to be consumed through food or dietary supplements. Non-essential fatty acids can be produced by the body although they can still be ingested from some of the food that we eat. We focus here on the main differences between essential and non-essential fatty acids.
The Role of Essential Fatty Acids
Basically, for humans, there are only two kinds of essential fatty acids. These are the alpha-linoleic acid, which is a kind of omega-3 fatty acid, and linoleic acid, which is a type of omega-6 fatty acid. There is a third category of essential fatty acids, which are actually known as conditional essential fatty acids because they become essential only on certain developmental or illness conditions. Examples of conditional essential fatty acids are the gamma-linolenic acid, which a kind of omega-6 fatty acid, and docosahexaenoic acid, which is an omega-3 fatty acid. The omega-9 fatty acids are considered to be non-essential fatty acids because they can be produced using other fatty acids and carbohydrates.
Studies have shown that the balance and ratio between the three kinds of omega fatty acids is important. Many factors influence the need for the omega acids and affect the ratio in which they should be consumed. Generally, the amount of omega 3 should be higher than that of omega 6. Age and gender are the most important factors. The main functions of the essential fatty acids are to maintain healthy cell membranes, assist in the development of the brain and nervous system, and help in the production of hormone-like substances. They also play a vital role in the prevention and breakdown of bad cholesterol in arteries.
How to Get Essential Fatty Acids In Your Diet
Omega 6 is found in vegetable oil and it is believed that this particular type of omega fatty acid helps with the regulation of blood flow and levels of blood cholesterol. Omega 3 has an anti-inflammatory effect, especially beneficial to the heart when inflammation of the vessel walls cause atherosclerosis. It is mainly found in fish oils such as tuna and mackerel. Certain nuts contain fatty acids, especially almonds and walnuts, but it is important to eat them in moderation. Dark, leafy vegetables, like spinach and kale and flaxseed also contain omega 3 fatty acids.
The Role of Non Essential Fatty Acids
Some non-essential fatty acids are actually important for the body. Of course, the saturated fats are considered to be non-essential fatty acids because they are not required by the body and instead may cause harm. Trans fatty acids, although these are a kind of unsaturated fat, are also non-esential fatty acids and should be avoided in the same manner that we should avoid saturated fats because of findings that increased consumption of trans fats is proportional to an increase in the risk of coronary heart disease. It is also used in supplements when used as development enhancements. Meanwhile, there are non-essential fatty acids which are simply classified as such because the human body can synthesize them from other nutrients like carbohydrates and other unsaturated fatty acids. These are the omega-9 fatty acids, which can lower bad cholesterol, increase good cholesterol, and control blood sugar. However, since the human body can create omega-9 fatty acids, there is no need to include them in one’s diet.
In conclusion, there is generally no need to bother including non-essential fatty acids in your diet. You only need to focus on the essential fatty acids, which cannot be produced by the human body.
Dr. Paul, i would like to find out something…. while doing the research about the essential fatty acids, there is somewhere i found that the two types of essential fatty acids are linoliec and alpha linolenic and not alpha-linoleic as stated above. would you please help me know and understand better about them.
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