Two 'families' of essential fatty acids (EFAs) include the Omega-3 and Omega-6 series, the 'parents' of which are an essential component of a healthy diet as they cannot be produced by our bodies:
- Linoleic acid (LA) is the parent fatty acid of the Omega-6 family and is commonly found in vegetable oils such as corn oil, sunflower oil, palm oil, rapeseed oil and soya oil. Evening Primrose Oil is a member of the Omega-6 family.
- Alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) is the parent of the Omega-3 family and predominantly comes from green leafy vegetables and some vegetable oils (flax, rape and soya), while the longer chain members of the Omega-3 series are predominantly found in fish and fish oils.
These essential fatty acids are converted in the body by enzymes into Long Chain Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids (LCPUFAs). Four important LCPUFAs in the body are:
- Gamma Linolenic Acid (GLA)
- Arachidonic Acid (AA)
- Docosahexaenoic Acid (DHA)
- Eicosapentaenoic Acid (EPA)
GLA, DHA, EPA and AA are all vital for good health.
The body's conversion of essential fatty acids to LCPUFAs can be an inefficient process. However, the biggest contributing factor towards a sub-optimal supply in the body is the modern lifestyle and diet:
- High consumption of alcohol, caffeine, saturated fats, sugar, nicotine and excess cholesterol can affect the efficiency of enzymes and therefore inhibit the manufacture of LCPUFAs in the body
- An increase in vegetable oil consumption has resulted in excess Omega-6 fatty acids in the diet
- A vegetarian diet can lead to an excess of Omega-6 fatty acids, while strict vegetarian diets provide little DHA, EPA or AA.
- Increases in hydrogenated fats in processed foods has increased trans fatty acid consumption
- Low fish consumption leads to low intakes of the vital LCPUFAs DHA and EPA
- Farmed fish and meat from cattle fattened on cereals rather than grass have less Omega-3 LCPUFAs than before
The importance of Evening Primrose Oil and Fish Oil
Impaired conversion of the parent essential fatty acids means their LCPUFA derivatives GLA, EPA, DHA and AA can be at sub-optimal levels in the body, many years of research have pointed to Evening Primrose Oil as a good source of GLA.
Fish oil from oily fish such as tuna, mackerel, and salmon are a rich source of EPA and DHA.