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Understanding Fatty Acid Composition & Your Health

Fatty acids are essential for life and energy production. Fatty acid composition is complex, and different for each type of fatty acid. A fatty acid is a carboxylic acid, often with a long chain or tail, which can be either unsaturated or saturated. Some fatty acids are carboxylic acids, which are as short as four carbon atoms. Other fatty acids that are derived from natural fats and oils may have eight carbon atoms.

Fatty acids are contained in animal or vegetable fat, oil or wax. Natural fatty acids are made up of a chain of four to 28 carbons, which may be saturated or unsaturated.

Essential fatty acids are required to produce enough metabolic energy for your body to move, think, talk, breathe, produce body heat and survive. Your body can produce all but two of the fatty acids it needs. These two fatty acids, linoleic acid and alpha-linolenic acid, are contained in plant oils. Also, fish oil and coconut oil contain omega-3 fatty acids and DHA.

Energy is Generated from Fatty Acids.

Energy is generated from a few basic fuel molecules: glucose, fructose, fatty acids and amino acids. Fatty acids are ingested by your body as triglycerides. Triglycerides produce twice as much energy as carbohydrates or proteins. Your body breaks the triglycerides down into free fatty acids and monoglycerides, oxidation dismantles the molecules, and energy is released.

Fatty Acids Regulate Blood Sugar Levels

Fatty acids are essential for regulating your metabolism. When your body experiences increased metabolic demand due to physical activity or low blood sugar, it needs more energy. The oxidation of fatty acids is increased to meet your needs for energy.

When changes in your physical activity and your food intake cause your energy levels to shift, fatty acids metabolism is adjusted to accommodate the changes.

Fatty Acids Are an Important Part of Your Diet

Fatty acid metabolism requires a balance between the energy needs of your cells, and is dependent on the metabolism of carbohydrates and proteins. Carbohydrates that are in excess (of your body’s energy needs) will be converted into fat.

If you do not get enough fatty acids in your diet, your body won’t get the energy it requires for a wide range of functions, including blood pressure regulation, blood clotting, blood lipid levels, immune system response and inflammation response.

In addition to feeling tired and fatigued, there are many other symptoms you can have if you have a fatty acid deficiency. Some of these symptoms may include:

  • achy or popping joints
  • dry or brittle hair, fingernails and toenails
  • irregular bowel movements
  • constipation
  • bloating or gas
  • high blood pressure
  • a lack of mental energy
  • difficulties concentrating
  • memory loss.

Healthy Sources of Fatty Acids

Fish oil is a healthy source for
omega-3 fatty acids. Acai berries are also rich in omega-3 fatty acids. Vitamin supplements are also good sources of fatty acids if you don’t get enough fatty acids in your diet.

Overall, getting the right amount fatty acids, either in your diet or in vitamin supplements, if essential for good health.

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