Healthy Fatty Acids: Which is Best and Which is Enough?

Reading Level: Gratifying

With all the talk on fatty acid, most of us have heard that we need fish oil, flax seed or flax oil, and various omega fatty acids, but few people are really sure how much of what ones, so let’s make it simple!

I recently read a clear cut article on fatty acids by Dr. David J. Foreman, Herbal Pharmacist, who writes a monthly newsletter for the Vitamin Shoppe chain of stores. (We buy most of our supplements there.) I’ll give you the highlights from his article, “Secrets of Healthy Fats Revealed.” The link for the full article is footnoted below.

Dr. Foreman makes an interesting statement that Essential Fatty Acids (EFAs) are possibly more important than vitamin and mineral supplements because our bodies cannot make them.

EFAs have to come from our diet. Symptoms of a lack of EFAs can include:

  • Dry, itchy skin
  • Poor memory
  • Heart disease
  • Poor circulation
  • Fatigue
  • Mood problems
  • Immune weakness
  • Hormone imbalances

Not only is it important to have EFAs, but they need to be in a proper proportion to each other.

Dr. Forman says that the ideal intake ratio of Omega-6 to Omega-3 fatty acids is between 1:1 and 4:1. This means for every gram of Omega-6 you need up to one gram of Omega-3; however, the typical ratio of the American diet is between 10:1 and 25:1, creating many serious health issues.

What are the most popular dietary supplement sources of EFAs?

  • Fish Oil
  • Flax Seed Oil
  • Evening Primrose Oil
  • Borage Oil

Please note that Dr. Foreman says that there are good reasons for taking fish oil over flax seed oil, unless you have fish oil allergies. Some people’s bodies do not convert ALA into EPA and DHA. DHA is very important, and, since you would not be aware of whether your body is converting ALA to DHA, it is “playing it safe” to use fish oil to assure that your body gets both the EPA and DHA it needs.

Which fatty acids are Omega 3 or Omega 6?

Omega-3 fatty acids include ALA, EPA DHA.
Omega-6 fatty acids include GLA and LA


Here are your Essential Fatty Acids and their Benefits:

(There are many more health benefits than listed here.) 

Eicosapentaenoic Acid (EPA) and Docosahexaenoic Acid (DHA) Fish oils containing Omege 3s EPA and DHA are especially beneficial for the health of your heart, brain and joints.

Alpha Linolenic Acid (ALA) This Omega 3 Fatty Acid is primarily in flax seed oil and supports your heart health, such as healthy cholesterol, and possibly immune system benefits. Some people’s bodies can convert ALA into EPA and DHA, but not everyone’s.

Gamma Linolenic Acid (GLA) This Omega 6 Fatty Acid is found in borage, black currant and evening primrose oils. GLA helps with inflammation, healthy circulation, and mood support in pre-menopausal women.

Linoleic Acid (LA) This Omega-6 Fatty Acid comes from processed foods, margarine, and vegetable oils. LA helps improve skin conditions. Please note that typical North American diet includes way too much LA so one’s diet should not be supplemented with this fat.

Click here to read in full Secrets of Healthy Fats Revealed by Dr. David J. Foreman, Herbal Pharmacist

You can find more of Dr. Foreman’s articles at, click on Articles and More at the top, then on Advice from Experts/Herbal Pharmacist; you will then see the archives on the right.

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