Why Your Body Cannot Do Without Fatty Acids

 Chances are you know the importance of vitamins and minerals to your health, but are you aware that your body also relies on fatty acids for many of its functions?

Fatty acids are polyunsaturated fats. You may know them as Omega-3, Omega-6, and Omega-9. These “good fats” are created by breaking down other fats. Since they’re essential for health and aren’t produced by the body (except for Omega-9), we need to eat food or take supplements that include them.

Fatty Acids Are Essential For Health

 Fatty acids strengthen your health in many ways including:

  • Help in the movement of oxygen through the bloodstream
  • Develop healthy cell membranes and tissue
  • Aid in the proper functioning of organs
  • Retain healthy lipid levels in the blood
  • Aid the functioning of the immune system
  • Aid brain function
  • Control inflammation
  • Help in blood clotting and regulating blood pressure

In addition to these critical functions, fatty acids can also bring you other desirable benefits, from helping you stay in shape to making you look younger.

Additional benefits of Omega-3:

  • Boosts your brainpower. Researchers have discovered that increasing your Omega-3 intake may actually improve your brain capabilities.
    • Alex Richardson, a physiologist at the University of Oxford, and Madeleine Portwood, a special education psychologist, studied the effects of increased Omega-3 in 100 school children. They found that 40% of the kids showed a remarkable improvement in their grades and many developed a new interest in reading and music.
  • Helps you lose weight. Omega-3 aids in the processing of cholesterol, regulating blood sugar levels, and helping in the functioning of the thyroid gland, which regulates weight. An under-active thyroid can cause excessive weight gain.
    • According to Udo Erasmus, an expert in nutrition, Omega-3 fatty acids help you burn more calories by increasing your metabolic rate. It’s not only how many calories you consume, but how easily you burn them that counts!
  • Gives you healthy, younger looking skin. If you want supple, glowing skin, eat food containing Omega-3 fatty acids to help prevent premature aging. They may also reduce acne, dry and scaly skin, and skin inflammation.

Sources of Fatty Acids

The Standard American Diet diet barely contains any fatty acids. For example, the acids in canned and instant foods are leached out by the hydrogenation process, which gives these foods a long shelf life, buyer beware.

Getting your fatty acids through fresh, unprocessed foods will give you the full benefits.

The list below includes some of the sources for Omega-3 and Omega-6 and GLA fatty acids:

  • Oily fish like Salmon, Halibut, Tuna
  • Ground flax seeds and Flax oil (linseed oil)
  • GLA (borage oil, evening primrose oil or black currant seed oil)
  • Oleic acid (olive oil, avocado, macadamia nuts)
  • Healthy omega-3 fats (ALA, EPA, DHA)

Although oily fish are a good source of fatty acids, ensure that you heed some precautions if you intend on relying on fish to provide them:

Studies reveal that fish is prone to high levels of contamination via PCBs, radioactive poisons, heavy metals, and industrial pollutants such as mercury. Know your sources.

The EPA and the FDA have also warned that eating certain types of fish and shellfish can harm young children as well as nursing and pregnant women.

What’s more, oxidants are added to fish oil in processing to prevent it from becoming rancid. Obtaining your fatty acids from many different sources would be more beneficial for you.

Taken in the right amounts, fatty acids help you stay healthy, smart, young, and fit. Eating a variety of fresh foods with these beneficial nutrients is one of the best things you can do for yourself!

According to J. DiNicolantonia, most adults should consume at least 2 grams of combined EPA and DHA per day in order to provide enough omega-3s for healthy cell membranes, to support increased fat burning, and to prevent loss of muscle mass. For maximal effects on gaining muscle mass and strength, older adults may need higher amounts—around 3 to 4 grams per day.


Karen Ellis is Functional Nutrition Specialist with 20 years of experience in the health and wellness industry. Her passion for a holistic approach to health came after a weight loss pill caused me to have a stroke and open-heart surgery at the age of 35.

With the unexpected death of my husband and the complexities of my own health issues, my well-being was paramount as a single mother of two young boys.

I am a Functional Medicine Practitioner through The School of Applied Functional Medicine. My health coaching training and certification is from Columbia University for the Institute of Integrative Nutrition in New York. I am board certified by the American Association of Drugless Practitioners. I also hold a B.S. in Psychology from the New York Institute of Technology and I’m  a classically trained raw and whole foods chef from Lincoln Culinary School.