Contributed by Damian Rodriguez, DHSc, MS
Essential Fatty Acids (EFA), more commonly known as “omega” fatty acids, are a group of lipids vital to optimum health, but that must be provided through the diet because the body is incapable of synthesizing them. EFAs serve a number of significant functions in the body, including promoting healthy cellular growth, brain development, cardiovascular health, muscle activity, immune function, and joint health. EFA intake is one the most important aspects of good nutrition and overall health.
What are essential fatty acids?
There are a number of different types of dietary fat, with the primary difference being saturation. A saturated fat has a straight configuration, with single bonds completely coated (or saturated) in hydrogen atoms. An unsaturated fat has a double bond at a specific carbon atom, resulting in a jagged-shaped molecule missing the characteristic hydrogen atom saturation. A monounsaturated fat (MUFA) contains a single double bond while a polyunsaturated fat (PUFA) contains two or more. Many unsaturated fatty acids have been shown to promote healthy development, support healthy immune function, and have cardio-protective benefits.*
To further delineate these “healthy” unsaturated fats, there are three primary types: omega-3, omega-6, and omega-9. Omega-3 and omega-6 are polyunsaturated and must be acquired through diet. Omega-9 is monounsaturated and is not considered an EFA because our bodies can synthesize them from other fats we consume.
The different types of omegas are categorized by where the kink in the hydrogen-saturated carbon chain resides. Fatty acids have two ends; the beginning of the chain is referred to as the “alpha” and the end of the chain called the “omega.” A fatty acid is categorized by the location of the first double bond from the “omega” end. In an omega-3, a monounsaturated fat with only a single double bond, the double bond is located three carbons away from the end of the carbon chain. In an omega-6, that double bond is located six carbons from the end. In an omega-9, which has two or more double bonds, the first double bond is located nine carbons from the omega carbon.
What are the most beneficial EFAs?
Although there are various unsaturated fatty acids, all with distinct chemical structures and characteristics, numerous clinical observations and longitudinal studies have demonstrated the beneficial effects of long-chain (having more than 16 carbon atoms) omega-3s contained in marine life above all others. There are two distinct types of long-chain omega-3s that research has consistently shown to be the most beneficial and the most lacking in the conventional diet: eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), which are found exclusively in oily fish and marine algae. The shorter-chain alpha linolenic acid (ALA), found in high concentrations in seeds and nuts, also serves many beneficial functions and actually converts (although not particularly efficiently) to EPA and DHA in the body. Due primarily to the cardio-protective benefits of these long-chain omega-3s, the Dietary Guidelines for Americans have been recently amended to include more seafood and the American Heart Association’s newest strategic goals focus on increasing oily fish consumption.
Actually consuming enough omega-3s for optimal health can be quite a challenge. Fatty fish is the best source of EPA and DHA as its direct source does not need to be converted from ALA, but due to the risk of exposure to toxic pollutants such as mercury, it is generally recommended that no more than 2–3 servings a week are consumed. Marine algae, an excellent source of DHA, is not a common component in most diets and can be cost-prohibitive, if you can find it at all. Walnuts, flaxseeds, and canola oil are excellent sources of ALA, but they lack significant concentrations of the other more beneficial omega-3s. Another important factor is that no source of dietary fat is made up of a single type of fatty acid; even the best whole food sources of EPA and DHA are less than 50 percent omega-3s by fat concentration and still include levels of saturated fat. All of these sources are also very energy dense, so those on calorie-restricted diets may want to limit them to keep their energy consumption low. A well-designed EFA dietary supplement is a very convenient solution to a complex problem as they can provide precise amounts of the most beneficial fatty acids without the co-existing saturated fats, possible toxins, off-putting taste, and caloric and financial cost. Due to this convenience factor, fish oils and broad-spectrum EFA supplements are a rapidly growing segment of nutrition supplementation. According to the National Institutes of Health, as of 2012 nearly 8 percent of U.S. adults take a daily fish oil supplement, making it the most popular natural product in the industry.
What makes xEO Mega® special?
As effective as fish oil supplementation is, there is a better alternative with an even wider spectrum of health benefits. In xEO Mega, doTERRA has developed the most advanced essential oil omega complex on the market. Four xEO Mega softgels provide 950mg of marine-derived omega-3 EFAs, and another 210mg from plant-based sources, along with other highly bioavabile micronutrients and antioxidants. Along with the marine-sourced EFAs, xEO Mega includes echium seed oil, which contains a high concentration of stearidonic acid (SDA) that the body efficiently converts to EPA. Also, the included essential oils work synergistically to support the digestion process and immune system function, and enhance the antioxidant benefits.* Furthermore, the astaxanthin, vitamin E, and vitamin D content promote healthy response to oxidative stress.* The essential oil omega complex is formulated to work with Microplex VMz® to naturally benefit health in a manner that no basic nutritional supplement regimen can match.
Your body requires EFAs to regulate bodily functions, counter oxidative stress, maintain overall wellness, and perform at its best every day.* Balancing a diet including moderate amounts of vegetable oils and regular servings of oily fish, along with xEO Mega, ensures that you will meet the recommended guidelines for EFA consumption and lifelong health.