What are Essential Fatty Acids?
Fatty acids are straight chained hydrocarbons ending with a carboxyl group at the end. The human body can synthesize most of the fat it needs from our diets. There are two fatty acids linolenic and linoleic acids that the human body cannot synthesize and must be obtained from our diets. These fatty acids are called essential fatty acids as we cannot make them in our bodies. These are called omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. These fatty acids are very important and necessary in the normal functioning of the human body.
Deficiencies of Essential Fatty Acids
Deficiencies of the essential fatty acids omega-3 and omega-6 can lead to dry skin, liver problems, kidney abnormalities, reduced immune system, depression, growth rate reduction, and osteoporosis.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Omega-3 fatty acids are derived from linolenic acid found in vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, and beans. The principal omega-3 fatty acid is alpha-linolenic acid. Alpha-linolenic is converted into EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenonic acid) in the body. Fish is the main source of omega-3 fatty acid in the diet. The oilier types of fish have higher concentrations. You also need to be aware of mercury may be found in many of these species of fish. Fish oil supplements can provide a source but you need to make sure that the supplement is USP certified pure to be safe. Flax seed is a great source of omega-3 fatty acids. If flax seeds are used they must be ground in order to be absorbed. Flax seed oil capsules can also be used.
Omega-6 Fatty Acids
Omega-6 fatty acids are derived from linoleic acid found in vegetable oils, seeds, nuts, grains, and leafy vegetables. One of the omega-6 fatty acids is gamma-linolenic acid which is found in black current seeds, and hemp oils.
Omega-3 Benefits, Omega-6 Benefits, and Eye Health
There have been a variety of studies that show that taking fish oil supplements can help reduce the progression of macular degeneration. The AREDS 2 study did not confirm the benefits of omega-3 fatty acids. Therefore, the role of omega-3 fatty acids in people with macular degeneration is still not definitely known.
Dry Eye Syndrome
There are studies that show high doses of fish oil improve the symptoms related to dry eye syndrome. These studies suggest dosages in the range of two or three thousand milligrams a day.
Omega-6 fatty acid called gamma-linolenic acid or GLA has been shown in several studies to reduce inflammation in the body by increasing the bodies’ production of a chemical called prostaglandin one. A significant component of dry eye disease is related to chronic inflammation on the surface of the eye. Prostaglandin one is a chemical that reduces inflammation in the body. It has been shown to improve the symptoms of dry eye syndrome. HydroEye is a product that contains GLA for the treatment of dry eye.
Essential fatty acids are necessary for normal body function. There still needs to be further study of its role in macular degeneration. There is very good evidence that GLA or gamma-linolenic acid does help in the treatment of dry eye syndrome. The best omega-3 supplement is USP certified as to its purity.