A fatty acid is one of the molecular units making up fats, oils and waxes. During the digestive process, fats are broken down into fatty acids for absorption into your bloodstream.
Fatty acids are used by your body in various ways, including:
- component in cell membranes
- building blocks of adipose tissue
- greatest source of ATP for energy
- effects LDL, HDL cholesterol levels
- absorption & transport of fat soluble vitamins
- control inflammation, blood clotting, brain cell development
Excess fatty acids are joined together into groups of three, what’s referred to as triglycerides.
Fatty acids are classified into two major groups:
- saturated fatty acid ~ lauric acid, palmitic acid
- unsaturated fatty acid ~ monounsaturated, polyunsaturated, omega fatty acids
Saturated fatty acids are commonly found in animal fats. Olive oil provides the highest source of unsaturated fatty acids.
Essential fatty acids are fatty acids that your body cannot make by itself and are required for good health. Currently, there’s only two identified that fall into this category: omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. For those on a typical American diet, their intake of omega-6 is excessive as it’s present in various cooking oils, i.e corn, sunﬂower, safﬂower, cottonseed and soy. However this is not the case with omega-3 fatty acid, so special attention for inclusion into your diet is essential.
A balanced and adequate intake of both essential fatty acids provides various health benefits, for instance:
- reduce risk of atherosclerosis
- relieve ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s, arthralgia, rheumatoid arthritis symptoms
- potentially prevent heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, metabolic syndrome, kidney disease, COPD
An imbalanced intake of essential fatty acids, i.e. deficiency in omega-3, has been shown to be responsible for some unhealthy consequences, such as inflammation, decreased immune function, depression, mastalgia and dry skin.