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Essential Fatty Acids: What Are They and Why Do We Need Them? with Alisson Molinares, R

Essential Fatty Acids: What Are They and Why Do We Need Them?

Fatty acids are powerful nutrients with amazing health benefits. They can improve your memory, reduce your blood pressure and triglycerides, and even reduce your risk of death from heart attacks. Some of these fattyacids are considered “essential”, which means you have to get them through food because your body can’t produce them on its own.

Watch the video on essential fatty acids where we’ll cover:

  • What essential fatty acids do in your body and why you need them
  • How to get more of them in your diet
  • When you need to supplement
  • How to get the proper ratio of omega-6 vs. omega-3 fatty acids

Are you ready to take charge of your health? Schedule your free 20-minute discovery call with our New Patient Coordinator to see how you can become a patient at MaxWell Clinic and start your healing journey today.

so today’s topic is essential fatty
acids um what are they and why do we need them my name is alison molinares i am the registered dietitian at maxwell
clinic and again thank you so much for taking the time out of your day to come watch this if you’re watching or will be
watching this at a later date thank you for taking the time um i hope that you find this very helpful
so uh just a few housekeeping things um i will have you on mute if you have any
questions please please feel free to type them into the q a box and i will try to get them answered at the end of
our group visit now in the event that the internet goes down we have some technical issues just hang in there for
five to ten minutes i will try to switch to a hot spot and we can get back to our
visit without any issues just hang in there even if you see the screen go back for a second i will try to jump back on
on a hot spot okay so we are talking about essential fatty acids and before we dive into that
i wanted us to discuss the different varieties of fat maybe just a quick overview of them so that we
can have a refresher or if you’re not aware of what the different types of fats are we can talk about them a little bit more so let’s start with saturated
fats they are solid at room temperature for the most part and typically come from
animal sources however not all you have um saturated fats would include foods like
butter or cheese i will have some saturated fats as well as coconut oil or palm oil would be considered a saturated
fat as well now unsaturated fats um are mostly liquid at room temperature like i said
not all but they include some like avocado oil or olive oil there are two
different types of unsaturated fats you have polyunsaturated fats that are
sometimes referred to are abbreviated as pufas and then mufasa so monounsaturated fats meaning that they only have one
double bond and they will include oils again like olive oil or avocado oil
grapeseed oil are actually considered all monounsaturated fats now polyunsaturated fats like the name
says poly meaning more than one um it has more than one double bond
and there are two different types of polyunsaturated fats including omega-3s
and omega-6 which i’m sure you have heard tons about so when we’re talking about omega-3s and omega-6s we are
talking about polyunsaturated fats and there are different types of
omega-3s and omega-6s and we’ll be diving into those in just a second
so omega-3 fatty acids this is a hot topic it has been for a long time is very well researched for for many
reasons and i want us to talk about some other research today i want us to talk about what omega-3 fatty acids are what
are the omega-6s fatty acids as well so we’ll dive into this starting with
acopentinoic acid from here on out it will be known as epa endoco hexanoic acid again from here on
now we’ll just be calling it dha so you don’t have to hear that again so ep and dha mostly come from marine
sources meaning fish algae and krill epa is a 20 carbon fatty acid and it has
been associated with reducing inflammation and helping with blood clotting as well
now dha is a 22 carbon fatty acid like i mentioned most of all of these are all
um unsaturated fatty acids polyunsaturated fatty acids like we discussed earlier
and this is a 22 carbon fatty acid and it is crucial for wall cell flexibility
and for normal brain function and development and we’ll dive into that in in a bit as well now ala or alpha
linolenic acid is an 18 carbon fatty acid that is mostly used for energy in the body
some sources of ala would include your flax seed walnuts
chia seeds just like you see in in that picture in front well again epa and dha will come from more
marine organisms like fish
now omega-6 fatty acids you have four different kinds here and
like the omega-3s omega-6 fatty acids also provide a range of benefits which i know are not talked
about near as often as they are omega-3s some of those benefits may include that
they can help reduce nerve pain they can help reduce blood pressure they can help
support bone health they can help lower the risk of heart disease yes they boost and protect uh they boost that
protective hdl they may also help reduce symptoms of adhd as well as may help
treat some rheumatoid arthritis as well so i know these benefits are not talked about near as often but omega-6 fatty
acids um are also providing us with quite a few
benefits now when we’re talking about sources of a few of these linolenic acid will come from oils like sunflower oil
safflower oil soybean oil corn oil and canola oils
ira or aa can also be abbreviated as a.a or actionic acid will come from poultry
eggs meats and animal organs like meat liver and things like that
gamma linoleic acid will come from various plants and seed oils and then when you get to the cla or conjugated
linoleic acid will come from as you see in that picture on the left meat and dairy so there is lots of different
places that omega-6 fatty acids come from so it is very easy to get enough omega-6s from your foods
and they’re found more easily than omega-3s are and they are very prominent in a western diet when you think about
all the oils like corn oil and soybean oil that are being used in all of our
processed foods and everything that is being made nowadays for that reason we’ll be focusing a
little bit more on omega-3s but i did want to point out all the benefits that you do get from omega-6 fatty acids and
i want to focus on that and we’ll talk about the importance of having both of them and not just completely dismissing
omega-6 fatty acids so remember that there are some benefits to those omega-6s as well and it’s not about
completely eliminating them okay so now we talk about them being essential
and we put them as essential there’s different types of um omega fatty acids
not just omega-3 and omega-6 but those two specifically are labeled essential
and essential means that they must come from your diet that means you have to eat them
they your body cannot produce them they cannot be generated in the body so essential fatty acid deficiency
didn’t actually appear until the development of total parental nutrition so meaning you’re being fed through your
veins and you’re unable to eat any food most likely but very likely in a hospital since they’re you’re you’re
being fed through through your veins and until the development of a fat-free total parental
nutrition that’s how they started they started without any fats in that parental nutrition formulas were
able to quickly induce that deficiency so in
1969 is when they noticed a woman within a few months of receiving total parental
nutrition she started to develop dermatitis and she died seven months later with profound omega-6 and nearly
complete omega-3 deficiency impossible so within a few months
she immediately had that deficiency again the formula was fat-free it demonstrated how essential both
linoleic and alpha-linoleic acid meaning omega-6 and omega-3 are now the
conclusion was again confirmed the following year they put an infant again on a fat-free formula and parental
nutrition formula and they found omega-3 and omega-6 deficiencies in plasma and
in tissues during their autopsy so that’s how we figured out that they are essential they need to come from our
food now they’re not all essential we talked about the different types of omega-3s and the different types of
omega-6s and as you see in the picture here they’re not necessarily all essential technically linoleic acid and
alpha linoleic acid are going to be essential however the conversion rate
from ala to epa is low the conversion rate from ala to epa and then dha is
even lower so as you notice here omega-6s and omega-3s um
have the saturates that they are fighting for that’s the saturating enzyme that they are both kind of
fighting for and meaning that it’s a rate limiting step the commercial cannot happen as quickly because they’re both fighting for it so the conversion is
again biologically possible from ala all the way down to a dha
however approximately only 0.2 to 5 of ala gets converted to epa and only 1
gets converted to dha mean it is best and very important to consume that
epa and dha directly this is where we struggle with
wanting especially as a dietitian wanting all my patients to be consuming lots and lots
of those omega-3s just because if we tend to consume and with our western diet we tend to consume more of those
omega-6s they are fighting and that rate limited step is slowing down that conversion from ala all the way down to
epa and dha and this is why they are essential we need to have them in our diet we need to
be making sure that we’re consuming them this is one of the few things that our body cannot do on its own and it needs
us to consume it now let’s start talking about the ratio
because i think that this is where i hear a lot of misconceptions um i hear that it is hugely important to
just decrease and get rid of all omega-6s and that’s not necessarily true like i mentioned earlier it’s still an
essential fatty acid now because it’s readily available we don’t necessarily feel that we need
to focus on it and that can be true but in general is known that omega-6 can give rise to
pro inflammatory achoicinoids so equisinoids are biologically active lipids that again
are coming and generated from those omega-6s there are some coisinoids produced from omega-3s however they give
rise to more anti-inflammatory ecosystems versus omega-6 they’re pro-inflammatory
so the coisinoids when they’re present in height quantities they influence various
metabolic activities not just inflammatory uh activities but also
platelet aggregation hemorrhage basal constriction and vasodilation so those equal synthetics are very important in
our body and though they are very important chemicals like i said there are excess production coming from those
omega-6 that pro-inflammatory can increase in
your inflammation in the body and result in inflammatory disease so higher conceptions of those omega-3s can
protect us against inflammatory disease but the ratio really really does help
so we want a ratio that is uh closer to three to one and
nowhere higher than a five to one omega-6 to omega 3 ratio
omega 6 like i’ve been mentioning still has some benefits and so we don’t want to completely
avoid them but an excess amount of omega-6 and a lower amount of omega-3
can give rise to inflammation and that’s why we really want to focus on making sure that we are not overdoing it with
omega-6s and not falling behind with the omega-3s but it does not mean that we don’t need any uh omega-6
now an a-a or arachidonic acid and epa ratio is going to be
only measuring the omega-6 fatty acid aaa and the epa
and the desirable ranges for these ratios came about to correspond to the desirable range for
your overall omega-3 ratio so we are not only looking at the total
amount of omega-3 that you have we also look at your omega-6 to omega-3 ratio
and then you look at your aaa to epa ratio as well that those are indicators
of how good this balance is now i always get asked well how much should i be eating what are the current
eba and dha recommendations we want to know how what what should i be consuming how much so
the current recommendation for epa and dha would be 250 milligrams per day that
equals out to two servings of fatty fish twice a week not mentioned uh notice how i
mentioned fatty fish because not all fish are the same we’ll go into that in just a minute but we need fatty fish at
least twice a week 250 milligrams of epa and dha combined that’s it that’s the standard recommendation however that is
very dependent on your omega-6 status your current intake of epa and dha that is dependent
on your risk is there uh hypertriglycedemia or is there coronary
heart disease is there underlying health condition that would require you to need more of those
omega-3s then then if you were healthy with a normal ratio of
of omega-3 if your omega-3 index is okay then those 250 milligrams per day may be
what’s needed now if you are having any of the you know
any of the risk factors we would increase it and that will come down to your clinician discussing this with you
and there are many ways to figure these out now i did add this picture right here on the side because i’ve seen it
around quite a bit and i i think it’s a very helpful tool to let us see
what the different kinds of oils have and what what they’re made out of so as you
can tell here anything in the blue is that omega-6 and there are certain oils like the sunflower oil and corn oil
soybean oil that tend to be a lot higher in those omega-6s and you have olive oil for example that although it’s not
extremely high in omega-3 is mostly in omega-9 not high in saturated fats and not high in the omega-6 and that’s why
we do use and recommend olive oil so much now certain oils like flaxseed oil as
you can see is the highest in omega-3 and it is great we encourage patients to have this
in their salads use it for salad dressing as well just because it’s really high omega-3 but it is not great
for cooking as it does not have a high smoke point so if you have questions as to why we
use certain oils and why we recommend certain oils this would be why now i get questions on
coconut oil all the time and well it’s okay to use and again that depends on on a case by case it is
higher in saturated fats as you can see it’s very very low in the omega-6s but
it is high in saturated fats and for some of you that may be great for some of you it may be not same as palm oil
this is a saturated whereas over here you’re seeing um unsaturated fats more
than anything and you’re seeing omega-3s more than omega-6s
okay so i wanted to discuss omega-3 and and the research
that is behind omega-3 i think omega-3s and heart health maybe brain health behind that may be the most studied in
connection to those omega-3s and for for many good reasons so there has been many
studies that show improvement and modifiable risk factors such as blood pressure platelet reactivity
heart rate variability vascular reactivity so lots of research and
improvement in modifiable risk factors is it’s a big deal meaning that they have
shown to help in in these conditions ep and dha may decrease
dysphrasia’s sudden death and rates of atherosclerosis as well as
slightly lower your blood pressure so lots of good things there in a study done fish consumption may reduce
mortality caused by coronary heart disease and it was a study done it’s called dart it is a developmental and
reproductive toxicology study it’s a multi-generational study and it reported
a 30 reduction of acute coronary syndrome in patients randomly designated
to consume fatty fish twice a week so that’s a thirty percent reduction um of
acute coronary syndrome by just eating the basic recommended um two servings of
fatty fish a week the 200 milligrams of ppn dha combine that we just discussed
the journal of cardio uh cardiovascular pharmacology also did a study on trained
healthy cyclists undergoing exercise to exhaustion and we’re taking about eight grams of
fish oil per day for about eight weeks they had found that they had lower heart rate lower whole body oxygen consumption
and lower heart rate pressure so it indicated oxygen utilization was much
better in the cyclist than in the others that were not given the fish
oil for those eight weeks lots of great connections between omega-3s and and heart health there’s
lots of benefits to that and there’s tons of research out there like i mentioned
uh omega-3s and brain health are being studied a lot right now for and then they’re finding really good
things dha is concentrated in the brain uh a total lipid content of about
60 so uh dha makes up about 10 to 14 of those
total lipids or total fats that are in your brain that’s quite a good amount in
fact i believe eight percent of your brain’s weight may actually be dha so
that is a significant amount of dha that is found in in our brain dha readily crosses our
blood-brain barrier and it plays a critical role in neuron size in neurogenesis meaning the production of
new neurons in neurite growth synapse formation and function
and it is playing a crucial role in neuronal integrity gene expression in the brain and glucose transport as well
as cognitive development and learning ability there is research showing improvement in cognition and memory
with the use of dha so this is huge with the growing
number of patients that are experiencing cognitive decline alzheimer’s disease and and so much more there’s research
ongoing research about the ability of dha to be able to help with that cognition and memory
there’s also research on omega-3s and mental health so there is research
connecting omega-3s with helping adhd major depressive disorder as well as
bipolar disorder or independent mental analysis
of controlled trials in patients in humans with major depression and bipolar disorder found a significant benefit
from omega-3 acid treatment so they are definitely utilizing them and testing them um and they have seen positive
effects of omega-3 on bipolar disorder and major depressive disorder which is huge it’s a great way
for us to be able to help with those and for those patients that do have them and
could could use some some help in there all right now there are benefits of
omega-3s in pregnancy babies and eye health so dha is not only concentrated
in the brain but it is also concentrated in the retina of sky
so a randomized control trial was done in subjects with dry eye syndrome actually showed
uh improvement in clinical markers of dry eyes with the intervention of omega-3 fatty acids so
not only is it helping with burn health but it is also helping with with your eye health and that has to do with the
hiv concentrated in that area as well so dha and omega-3s in general can support
eye and brain development in babies so during pregnancy and lactation even with
babies born there is an intense uh mobilization of those polyunsaturated fatty acids
for the synthesis of fetal and infant tissue so lots of omega-3s are being utilized
during that time again the brain and the nervous system are going to be benefiting from
all of the omega-3s in the body there is a correlation between low birth weight in babies and low intake of omega-3s
so it’s been shown in studies that it is affecting babies quite a bit there’s also study done in 2015 by the american
college of neuropsych pharmacology which showed a study done in boys ages 6 to 12 years of
age and that study found that in boys
with or without adhd they were lower that had lower plasma total
omega-3s they found an increase of behavioral problems learning problems and health
disturbances than those that had higher levels of omega-3s so not only is
important during pregnancy as the baby is growing and developing but also it’s been shown to help with behavior um
and overall health in boys and and the later age between sixth
and twelfth was for this study a huge huge research um discoveries found in
relation to omega-3s and so i wanted to point out some of the huge benefits of omega-3s and why it is that we need them
not only are they essential but knowing why they’re essential and who would benefit from them which would
be everyone especially those who are pregnant and for babies and and growing
children as well now we talked about where eb and dhaka um come from there
come from usually marine organisms we talked about fish and algae so we know where they come from however even though
fish and fish oil are very high in omega-3 most of them or some of them are
and we know why they’re needed for our health there is a large growing concern about the level of mercury and the
amount of mercury found in fish so methylmercury is most commonly uh the
type that is found in foods and it is readily and easily absorbable or absorbed in your gas intestinal tract so
it up it’s absorbed about 95 of consumed methyl mercury is absorbed in your gut
and of course we know it can enter your blood cells and it can enter your brain and cause so so many issues mercury
toxicity is has many many different side effects but even if some enters the body is not
ideal it’s it’s getting into your blood cells and and into the brain and can cause some issues even if it’s a smaller
amount so we are concerned with the amount of mercury in and fish fetuses are most at risk
they’re exposed to mercury it can adversely affect their growing brain and their nervous system so we want to
eat fish because of the benefits that they have but we do want to avoid fish that are high in mercury so the bigger
the fish the higher mercury it would be so when selecting what fish you want to eat the smaller the better and that’s because
when the bigger fish eat the smaller fish the predators the bigger fish that
eat the little ones also absorb the praise contamination it’s called biomagnification so bigger fish kind of
take over what the little one has eaten and the mercury levels rise even more the ewg or the environmental working
group has it is a great resource and has this image on their on their site so you can
see that there are fish that are going to be best to consume they are very high in omega-3s they are low
mercury and also sustainable these are the fish that we encourage you to have at least two times
per week to get to those hundred at least those 250 milligrams that you need
so that includes salmon sardines mussels rainbow trout and
atlantic mackerel some of these are a little bit more easily found than others but definitely
going to be on the more sustainable side and especially high in the omega-3s now there are some that are good choices
they’re high omega-3 and and low mercury they may not be as high in omega-3 but they still have some that includes your
oysters pollock and herring now the fish that we have been wanting to and need to avoid especially
for those who are pregnant would be the larger fish king mackerel marlin orange ruffy shark
swordfish and towel fish if you want take a screenshot of this or you can definitely go into the ewg’s
website and they even have a more extensive list of fish so if you are at
a patient recently that is going on a trip to florida and loves to buy some fish um
well they are there and i i definitely provided them with the ewg website because there was a few of
the fish that we were unsure about and that is a great resource to look up all the fish that you commonly like or want
to buy and if you have questions as to something you’re having regularly or want to have maybe it’s at a restaurant
or you are traveling it’s a great place to look because it tells you how often you should be consuming with this fish
how much mercury they may have and how sustainable they are too which is is really important as well
so now what can we do what are some action items what what can we start with today because
i love nutrition in a sense that you’re in control of it you can uh the things that you do can upregulate or down
regulate uh your genes there is control in in what your um
what you can do um in terms of your health and nutrition is is part of that so i wanted to give you some action
items uh things that you can start thinking about doing today um and it’s gonna come to no surprise to any of you
but my number one recommendation would be to eat fish high in omega-3 low in mercury at least two times per
week i probably sound like a broken record by now but it is hugely important while we all for the most part know this
recommendation i have noticed that there is um difficulty in doing this every week i
have noticed that it is not often prioritized and if it’s not intentionally done it will not happen
and so there are many of patients who know that they need to do this however week after week kind of forget to do it
or are not as intentional about it so i really really would like for this to be something that we are consistent with it
is needed it is essential if we do not eat it our body does not produce it so that would be my number one
recommendation here now you can also and i i know your maxwell care patient you probably have gotten
your omega-3 and omega-6 levels tested and again we want to do this because that way we can better make a
supplement recommendation and or dosaging in terms of whether you need more or less of those
omega-3 supplements so we do what’s called an omega coin and that test as you can see in the picture
will tell you your omega-3 index and that similarly to your a1c is the average of your blood sugars in the last
three to four months with the mega quan it’s the average of your omega 3 in in the last three to four months and so we
can check um whether your omega-3 is at in a low level or if it’s like chained
over here a desirable range and whether you need to supplement more or less
like i mentioned earlier we do also check for your omega 6 u and omega 3 ratio as well
as your a a to epa ratio and even with the mega quad can check the
trans fats as well the amount of trans fats that we’re eating which should be very very low um so getting them tested
is important because that way you know where you are how much you need to improve and or what your supplementation
needs are taking an omega-3 supplement as recommended this is very important
because there are some that do not like fish so don’t like the taste of salmon or hate
sardines or cannot stand seafood in general if this is you i highly
encourage you to take your omega-3 supplementation very very seriously and that means continuing to take it as
recommended by your clinician not falling off of it sometimes not skipping it for a month and going back for
another because like i said these are essential and if you’re not consuming any of it
it is likely that your omega-3 levels are low that your epa level is low and that your omega-6 is going to be higher
than your omega-3 as we discussed that can lead to inflammation so we really really want to increase um
that intentionality about taking that omega-3 supplement if you’re vegan this would also be for you as well i know
that you won’t be consuming fish therefore supplementation is important and there are vegan omega-3
supplements as well of course that would come from algae most likely now reducing omega-6 consumption this is
for those who are unable to get omega-3s and that are
dependent on the supplementation by reducing i don’t mean eliminate or completely avoid it means continue to be
mindful of how much of that you’re having perhaps not using soybean oil but substituting it with flaxseed oil in
your salad dressings or olive oil when you are cooking so i do not want us to avoid omega-6s but i would like for us
to reduce them especially if you are unable to increase omega-3 if you are eating fatty fish and
you can eat fatty fish at least two times a week maybe you’re getting fatty fish three times a week
you may not need to reduce your omega-6 consumption now i don’t expect that to be high either
but you may not need to intentionally try to lower it even more now increasing your ala so that means
your flax seeds walnuts chia seeds soybeans are all going to be higher
high in the alpha linoleic acid now like we talked about the conversion rate is quite low from ala to epa and dha but it
does happen and as long as we continue to have those healthy fats not just the fatty fish but those healthy fats there
is still some conversion to ep and dha so i would encourage you to continue to increase them and have them um they have
good benefits as well so it’s not that we just need um epa and dha ala is also
important like i mentioned it is used for energy in your body as well and with conversion being there maybe trying to
increase it especially if you’re dependent on supplements and not able to eat fatty fish at least two times a week
any questions i hope this was helpful
let me know if there’s any questions in the q a box if there is any concerns you need me to go back to any slides for for
screenshots so the ewg website um
you can um find that one just by looking ewg um
seafood guide on google and you that would probably be on on the top um ones that would show up or just go to ewg.com
and they do have tons of other things that they work on not just the seafood but that list is there
if you would like to send a message to your clinician they will absolutely send that link to you
thank you guys so much for joining i really really hope this was helpful for all of you i’m this is a subject i’m
passionate about um because i get to talk to you most of you about it any any of my patients have
probably heard me talk about this so i’m glad i was able to share with all of our maximal care patients you guys have a
rest a good rest of your evening

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Alisson Kothera, RD

Alisson Molinares, RD is a registered dietitian who loves working one on one with her patients to help them tailor a nutritious food plan.