Essential Fatty Acids (EFAs) and Cell Function

Frequently Asked Questions


Q. Why are Essential Fatty Acids so good for my cells?


A. Fats are the building blocks of cell membranes - and "good fats" build healthy cell membranes...


Cell membranes, the protective coverings around each cell in your body, are influenced by fatty acids from the food we eat. If your diet is high in saturated fat, your cells will be built with "bad fats" that make cell membranes stiff, rigid, and unhealthy. However, diets rich in polyunsaturated fats such as EFAs, act to regulate a large number of mechanisms including increasing the fluidity of cell membranes and improving their "gate-keeping" abilities. This helps transport toxins out and bring nutrients in to the cells. Essential fatty acids also influence the activation of cell genes, acting as second messengers and producing good eicosanoids.


Q. What are Eicosanoids?


A. Eicosanoids are a family of powerful, hormone-like compounds produced in the body from Essential Fatty Acids...


Eicosanoids are compounds that include prostaglandins, prostacyclins, leukotrienes, and thromboxanes, which are responsible for many of the beneficial effects of the good fats. However, some eicosanoids, such as those derived from Arachidonic Acid, are potentially harmful if excessive amounts build up in the body.


Q. What do Eicosanoids do?


A. There are three families, or "series" of Eicosanoids - series 1 and 3 are generally good eicosanoids, while series 2 is potentially harmful...


"Series 1" Eicosanoids

These compounds have three basic functions: they reduce inflammation, dilate blood vessels, and inhibit blood clotting. The strong anti-inflammatory properties help the body recover from injury by reducing pain, swelling, and redness. The other two functions keep blood vessels open wide, and keep blood flowing freely.


"Series 2" Eicosanoids

The most prominent compounds in this group strongly increase inflammation, constrict blood vessels, and encourage blood clotting. These properties come into play when the body suffers a wound or injury - without these eicosanoids, you would bleed to death from the slightest of cuts. However, in excess, these eicosanoids may be harmful. Many diseases are directly linked to excessive inflammation and blood clotting - for example, rheumatoid arthritis and some forms of stroke and heart attack. High levels of Series 2 eicosanoids in the body have also been linked to other diseases including diabetic nerve damage, high blood pressure, allergies, skin inflammations and cancer.


"Series 3" Eicosanoids

The compounds in this group are a mixed bag: some of them dilate blood vessels, while others constrict. They also have a weak tendency to increase inflammation and inhibit blood clotting. In general, these are useful defense mechanisms against trauma and infection.


The body must maintain a delicate balance between these eicosanoids - otherwise the strong proinflammatory, blood-vessel-constricting, and blood-clotting effects of Series 2 will overwhelm the system, causing a host of ill effects.


Q. How do I maintain a healthy balance between good and bad Eicosanoids?


A. Balancing the types of fat you eat has a direct impact on Eicosanoid production. Good fats make good eicosanoids!


In the modern diet we tend to eat foods that contain a high level of Arachidonic Acid, causing high production of potentially harmful Series 2 eicosanoids.

The key is to tilt the scale towards Series 1 and 3 eicosanoids through dietary supplementation with fats that the body can easily break down into these beneficial compounds. For Series 1, there are several plant sources the body can use - Borage Oil, Evening Primrose Oil, and Black Currant Oil. For Series 3, turn to Fish Oil or Flax Oil.


To fully satisfy the body's need for production of Series 1 eicosanoids, a healthy adult needs only 1-2 grams per day of Borage Oil, or 3-6 grams per day of Evening Primrose Oil. To increase production of Series 3 eicosanoids, a healthy adult needs to eat fish several times a week, or supplement the diet with 1-2 grams of Fish Oil or 2-5 grams of Flax Oil a day.


Restoring the natural levels of eicosanoids in our bodies will help both prevent and treat those diseases where harmful eicosanoid activity is a key factor.

Supplementation with "good" fats such as those found in Flax, Fish, Borage, Evening Primrose or other Plant oils can help restore the natural balance our bodies were meant to have.


Disclaimer: This information is provided in good faith as educational material. It is the customer's responsibility to check the suitability of the material under FDA (DSHEA), HPB, and/or any other rules regarding the use of this material.