What is essential fatty acid ?
What is essential fatty acid? Essential fatty acids, also known as EFAs, are those very important fatty acids that human and animals must obtain from diets or supplements because the body requires them for good health but cannot synthesize them by its own.
The term “essential fatty acid” refers to the fatty acids required for biological processes but does not include those fatty acids that only act as fuel. Essential fatty acids should not be confused with essential oils, which are “essential” in the sense of being a concentrated essence.
Actually, only two fatty acids are known to be essential for humans: alpha-linolenic acid (an omega-3 fatty acid) and linoleic acid (an omega-6 fatty acid). Some other fatty acids are sometimes classified as “conditionally essential”, meaning that human body can make it but only a little and not enough for body requirement, they can become essential under some developmental or disease conditions; These include docosahexaenoic acid (an omega-3 fatty acid), Eicosapentaenoic Acid, and gamma-linolenic acid (an omega-6 fatty acid).
Essential Fatty Acids Functions
According to the knowledge, In the body, essential fatty acids serve multiple functions. In each of these, the balance between dietary ω-3 and ω-6 strongly affects function.
1. The essential fatty acids are modified to make:
>the classic eicosanoids (affecting inflammation and many other cellular functions)
>the endocannabinoids (affecting mood, behavior and inflammation)
>the lipoxins which are a group of eicosanoid derivatives formed via the lipoxygenase pathway from ω-6 EFAs and resolvins from ω-3 (in the presence of acetylsalicylic acid, downregulating inflammation)
>the isofurans, neurofurans, isoprostanes, hepoxilins, epoxyeicosatrienoic acids (EETs) and Neuroprotectin D
2. The essential fatty acids form lipid rafts (affecting cellular signaling)
3. The essential fatty acids act on DNA (activating or inhibiting transcription factors such as NF-κB, which is linked to pro-inflammatory cytokine production)
Almost all the polyunsaturated fats in the human diet are EFAs. Essential fatty acids play an important role in the life and death of cardiac cells.