Essential fatty acids are absolutely necessary for good health. Essential fatty acids are a type of fat that humans and animals need to eat because they do not have the ability to make them themselves. Essential fatty acids help support proper hormone responses. A lack of essential fatty acids or consuming improper ratios of the types of fatty acids can lead to chronic inflammation, depression, and to a whole host of chronic diseases.
The two main types of essential fatty acids are omega-6 and omega-3. Foods that are high in omega-6 fatty acids are most of the vegetable oils that are used for cooking or frying. They are also found in high concentrations in meats that have been fed grain based diets. Omega-3 fatty acids are harder to come by in the diet than omega-6. The two most beneficial forms of omega-3 fatty acids are EPA and DHA. EPA is involved in anti-inflammatory processes throughout the body as well as playing a pivotal role in hormone regulation. DHA is an essential nutrient in building brain and nerve tissue. The conversion of precursor omega-3 fatty acids into EPA and DHA is inefficient in most people, so supplementation of these essential fatty acids is necessary for most people who do not eat a lot of fish.
The ideal ratio for consuming omega-6 to omega-3 fats is around 4:1. Unfortunately, the typical Western diet provides a ratio of anywhere from 10:1 to 30:1. This excessive consumption of omega-6 fats is causing major health problems for millions of people. Chronic excessive consumption of omega-6 fats has been associated with increased risk of heart attacks, stroke, heart arrhythmia, arthritis, osteoporosis, inflammation, mood disorders, obesity, and cancer. Limiting fried foods and vegetable oils is an important first step in correcting this ratio. While eating fish is a good addition to your diet, most people still need to supplement high quality DHA and EPA in order to achieve optimal health. Your brain and the rest of your body will thank you for it!