Essential Fatty Acids (EFAs)

Written by Bhavani Swaminathan @aakanksha_dfw

Linoleic acid (omega-6 PUFA) and linolenic acid (Omega-3 PUFA) are called essential fatty acids because:

1. These are not synthesize in the human body

2. These are required for important functions in the body and

3. These are available only through diet.

The EFAs have several important functions. They are essential for growth in the young and maintenance of normal healthy skin. Their other functions are as components of membranes to ensure their permeability to water and other small molecules. They are precursors of eicosanoids, a group of important metabolites which regulate vascular function.

The omega-3 fatty acids, have an important role in fetal brain and eye development. These acids also protect against rheumatoid arthritis and cardiovascular diseases.

Deficiency of EFAs : Results in a flaky skin, development of itchy sores on scalp and retardation of growth. Diarrhea and other symptoms may also develop. These symptoms of deficiency appear in low-birth infants fed fat free formulas and in adults fed for long periods on intravenous solutions, which contain no lipid.

Including nuts and dry fruits in daily diet will help to provide body with some amount of essential fatty acids. The digestion of fat starts in the stomach, where a coarse emulsion forms due to churning action. The chemical changes necessary for fat digestion occur in the small intestine. The entry of fat in the duodenum, the first part of the small intestine stimulates secretion of the bile from the gall bladder. The fat gets emulsified by the bile preparing it for digestion.