Ronald G. Reichert, ND
Essential fatty acid (EFA) supplements are critical agents in the prevention and treatment of a wide number of disorders ranging from asthma and heart disease to diabetic neuropathy and rheumatoid arthritis.
Essential fatty acid (EFA) supplements are critical agents in the prevention and treatment of a wide number of disorders ranging from asthma and heart disease to diabetic neuropathy and rheumatoid arthritis. The key health-promoting fats found in the EFA category include the omega-3 and omega-6 oils.
GLA: An Omega-6 Fatty Acid
Extracted from a number of plant seeds such as evening primrose and borage oil, gamma linolenic acid (GLA) is a key member of the omega-6 fatty acid family. GLA supplements have significant anti-inflammatory effects, making them an excellent choice in treating a number of specific conditions including eczema, dry eye syndrome, and diabetic neuropathy.
Omega-3 Frrom Fish Oil: The EPA and DHA Source
Marine-source oils from wild salmon, anchovy, or herring contain a group of omega-3 fatty acids called EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid). Like GLA, EPA and DHA together have significant anti-inflammatory effects. As such, fish oils are of great adjunctive benefit for those who have pro-inflammatory conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis and asthma. In addition, fish oil supplements help decrease elevated triglycerides, a type of fat that can increase your risk for heart problems.
Flax Oil: Vegetarian Friendly Omega-3
A recent study has strongly suggested that flax oil has a significant moderating influence on inflammation (too much inflammation is linked with an increased risk for coronary heart disease). Writing in the journal Atherosclerosis (2003), Dr. L.S. Rallidis and associates determined that supplementation with 15 ml of linseed oil per day for three months decreased certain laboratory markers of inflammation in 76 patients with poor cholesterol profiles.
Combinations of Oils: Are They Helpful?
Several clinical studies have combined different types of fatty acids for specific conditions such as chronic fatigue syndrome and osteoporosis. In one study, published in Aging (Milano 1998), 65 elderly women (average age 79.5 years) with osteoporosis were given 600 mg per day of calcium carbonate and then randomized to receive either an EPA/GLA mixture or placebo for 18 months.
Remarkably, those consuming the active-oil mixture maintained their lumbar spine bone-mineral density compared to a loss of 3.2 percent noted in the placebo group. Moreover, in the EPA/GLA group, hip-leg (femoral) bone mineral density increased by 1.3 percent in the treatment group, while the placebo group reported a 2.1 percent reduction over the same time period.
EFAs: Powerful Partners in Health
Although EFAs are generally quite safe to use, those who use certain prescription medicines (for example, anti-coagulants, anti-platelet aggregating drugs) or who are scheduled for surgery, should consult their health care practitioner before using such oils.
High quality EFA supplements are one of the cornerstones of good health and, therefore, are vital in both the prevention and treatment of numerous chronic disorders. Ensure your diet is oil-rich for optimum health.