Essential fatty acids or EFA are fatty acids that are essential for the normal body functioning. Since the human body does not have its own mechanism to synthesize the essential fatty acids, it should be supplied externally through the diet. There are two types of essential fatty acids required for human growth and development they are linoliec acid (an omega-6 fatty acid) and linolenic acid (an omega-3 fatty acid). These two fatty acids act as the building block for the synthesis of all other fatty acids.
Food items rich in essential fatty acids include walnut, soy bean, brazil nut, flax seed, pumpkin seed, vegetable oils like olive oil, flax seed oil, soy bean oil and walnut oil, in fish like mackerel sardine, salmon, Atlantic herring etc.
Essential fatty acids play an important role in cell membrane formation and its repair.
It plays an important role in normal functioning central nervous system.
These fatty acids play an important role in production of hormones.
It helps in production of the hormone like substance, the prostaglandins.
Essential fatty acids play an important role in lowering the high blood pressure level.
It helps in lowering the level of triglycerides in the blood. Essential fatty acids also help in increasing the level of HDL or good cholesterol in the blood.
It plays an important role in normal functioning of kidney, liver and digestive systems.
The anti-inflammatory compounds present in the essential fatty acids helps in relieving the symptoms of arthritis like joint pain and morning stiffness.
It plays an important role in preventing blood clot and thereby helps in reducing the risk of heart diseases.
It is essential for maintaining healthy skin, hair and nail.
In some individuals, the consumption of essential fatty acids in supplement form can rarely result in side effects like nausea, diarrhea, constipation, allergic reactions, drug interactions resulting in toxicity etc.
According to USDA, adult males should consume 15-17 grams of linoleic acid per day and adult female should consume 11-12 grams of linoleic acid per day. The recommended amount for linoliec acid in adult male is 1.6 grams per day and that in adult female is 1.1 grams per day.