Essential fatty acids are classified into fat "families": omega 3 fats and omega 6 fats.
Non-essential fat "families" include omega-9 fats, saturated fats, omega-7 fats, and trans-fats.
Optimal health depends on the proper balance of all fats - both essential and non-essential fats - in the diet. Proper balance means adequate amounts of each individual fat, without having too much, and maintaining proper balance between the various "families" of fats.
Fat health also means avoiding potentially harmful fats such as trans fats found in shortening, margarine, fried foods and dairy. A proper balance of fatty acids will lead to mental health and proper nerve function, a healthy heart and circulatory system, reduced inflammation in general, proper gastrointestinal and lung function, a more balanced immune system, and even healthy skin, hair and nails.
Fatty acid balance is also critical for the health of all pregnant women and their babies since the developing brain and nervous system of the baby requires large amounts of EFAs that must come from the mother. Fatty acid imbalances have been seen in many disease processes including:
- heart disease
- insulin resistance and diabetes
- painful menstruation
- pre-menstrual syndrome (PMS)
- attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
- obsessive-compulsive disorder
- and post-partum depression
Plasma and serum fatty acid values can vary substantially based on an individual’s most recent meal, so they do not necessarily reflect long-term dietary consumption.
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