Lesser-Known Omega Fatty Acids
The benefits of omega-3 fatty acids are well known to most of us these days, and accordingly we all supplement with fish oil, krill oil or flax oil, reaping the myriad benefits. Along with the knowledge that omega-3 fats are good for us, most people have heard that an overabundance of omega-6 fats is detrimental to health, promoting inflammation in different bodily systems. These unhealthy fats are generally found in the oils commonly used in processed foods. Corn, cottonseed, canola, sunflower, and safflower oils are all sources of certain omega-6 fats which cause systemic inflammation and increase free radical damage when consumed in excess without a balance of healthy omega-3 fats.
A Healthy Omega-6 Fatty Acid
There is an exception to this unhealthy omega-6 rule, however. Gamma-linolenic acid (GLA), is a metabolite of Linoleic Acid (LA), and is a healthy omega-6 fatty acid which not only has many of the same anti-inflammatory properties as the omega-3 fats found in fish and flax oils, but also performs some additional functions which fish oil does not. There are only a handful of plant oils which contain this preformed GLA, making it rarer than the omega-3 fats. Borage, Evening Primrose, Black Currant Seed, and Hemp oils provide GLA, with the microalgae spirulina also a good source. Ideally LA converts to GLA, but the pathway is often impaired. Dietary deficiencies or disease states can contribute to this. Some culprits include processed oils and trans fats, alcohol and sugar consumption, diabetic conditions, and simple aging. Since some individuals may be deficient in or unable to form GLA for these or other reasons, supplementation of GLA may be very helpful. Diseases characterized by chronic inflammation may benefit from GLA. It has been shown to reduce joint inflammation in rheumatoid arthritis. It has a particular affinity for the skin and eyes, moistening and soothing these tissues and benefiting eczema, psoriasis, and Sjogren's syndrome (dry eye). It may relieve hormonal imbalances, PMS, diabetic neuropathy, and liver damage in alcoholics. Regular intake of GLA-rich oils will beautify and moisturize the skin from within, creating a soft, supple complexion.
A Hardworking Omega-7
Another little-known omega fatty acid which is just recently drawing notice is the omega-7 fat palmitoleic acid. This rare fat is found in small amounts in fish and in good amounts in macadamia nuts and sea buckthorn oil, neither of which is readily available as a dietary source. Recent studies have found this fatty acid to have a favorable impact on C-reactive protein (CRP), triglyceride, and LDL levels, reducing all of these inflammatory markers. It has also been shown to decrease insulin resistance and thus may be helpful in the fight against diabetes and metabolic syndrome. Evergreen Nutrition carries several omega-7 supplements, both from fish oil and sea buckthorn oil, the latter which has the added benefits of a rich complement of carotenoids and tocopherols.
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