ESSENTIAL FATTY ACIDS-Summary
Alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), an omega-3 fatty acid, and linoleic acid (LA), an omega-6 fatty acid, are considered essential fatty acids because they cannot be synthesized by humans.
The long-chain omega-6 fatty acid, arachidonic acid (AA) can be synthesized from LA.
The long-chain omega-3 fatty acids, eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) can be synthesized from ALA, but EPA and DHA synthesis may be insufficient under certain conditions.
Typical Western diets tend to be much higher in omega-6 fatty acids than omega-3 fatty acids.
While DHA appears to be important for visual and neurological development, it is not yet clear whether feeding infants formula enriched with DHA and AA enhances visual acuity or neurological development in preterm or term infants.
A large body of scientific research suggests that higher dietary omega-3 fatty acid intakes are associated with reductions in cardiovascular disease risk, prompting the American Heart Association to recommend that all adults eat fish, particularly oily fish, at least twice weekly.
The results of randomized controlled trials indicate that increasing omega-3 fatty acid intake can decrease the risk myocardial infarction (heart attack) and sudden cardiac death in individuals with coronary heart disease (CHD).
Increasing EPA and DHA intake may be beneficial to individuals with diabetes, especially those with elevated serum triglycerides.
Randomized controlled trials have found that fish oil supplementation decreases joint tenderness and reduces the requirement for anti-inflammatory medication in rheumatoid arthritis patients.
Although limited preliminary data suggests that omega-3 fatty acid supplementation may be beneficial in the therapy of depression, bipolar disorder and schizophrenia, larger controlled clinical trials are needed to determine their efficacy.
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