Elementary Introduction to Essential Fatty Acids (EFAs)

The structure of fatty acids is like a long chain with many links and a Carbon atom at each joint between two links and at both ends of the chain. One of the ends of the chain contains the acid moiety, the other has only the carbon atom and hydrogen atoms. A carbon-carbon link can be single (like in saturated fats which are solid at room temperature and are components of red meats) or it can be double or unsaturated. If the fatty acid has one double bond it is called monounsaturated like oleic acid, the main component of olive oil. If it contain two or more double bonds it is called polyunsaturated fatty acid (PUFA) like the omega-6 and omega-3 families. TOP

The Importance of Omega 6 Including GLA An Anti-Inflammatory Nutrient

The Omega-6 and Omega-3 EFA Families of PUFA (1)

There are two main families of polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA):
The Omega-6 Family and The Omega-3 Family
Linoleic (LA) Alpha-linolenic (LNA or ALA)
(C18:2 n-6; #C atoms, (C18:3 n-3)
2 Double Bonds)
Gamma-linolenic Stearidonic (SDA)
(GLA), (C18:3 n-6) (C18:4n-3)
Dihomogamma-linoleic Eicosapentaenoic (EPA)
(DGLA), (C20:3 n-6) (C20:5 n-3)
Arachidonic (ARA) Docodapentaenoic (DPA)
(C20:4n-6) (C22:5 n-3)
Docosatetraenoic acid Docosahexaenoic (DHA)
(DTA) (C22:4 n-6) (C22:6 n-3) TOP

The Omega-6 and Omega-3 EFA Families of PUFA (2)

Members of each family are either essential i.e., our body cannot make them (such as LA and ALA) or conditionally essential that is, if we ingest enough LA and ALA in our food (see below for recommended daily intake) our bodies can manufacture all the others. This biochemical-physiological process is however slow and inefficient, especially in the fetus, premature newborn and developing infant. Thus Ara, EPA and DHA are provided by the mother directly through the umbilical cord or breast milk. Very recently the FDA approved supplementation of infant formulas with DHA to satisfy the infant’s needs for appropriate brain and retina development and with Ara to ensure appropriate general development and growth. Direct DHA supplementation is more needed than EPA supplementation. The reasons are not clearly understood yet. It is known however that EPA does not accumulate and persist in the brain like DHA. It is transformed into DHA and hormone-like materials. TOP

The Omega-6 and Omega-3 EFA Families of PUFA (3)

Omega-6 Oils
LA is abundant in corn oil, safflower oil, sunflower seed oil, cottonseed oil, soybean oil, peanut oil, sesame oil or grape seed oil. GLA is abundant in borage oil and evening primrose oil. Ara is abundant in red meat
Omega-3 Oils
ALA is abundant in flaxseed oil, canola oil, walnut oil and to some extent in soybean oil. EPA and DHA are in fish, other seafood, fish oils and algal oils,

Thus, in the human body: LA goes to GLA>Ara and ALA->EPA->DHA
(Both Ara and EPA are starting materials for cellular, hormone-like molecules called eicosanoids or prostaglandins) TOP

EFAs and Eicosanoids

Omega-6 prostaglandins (PGs) are potent stimulators of muscle contraction and platelet aggregation, e.g., thromboxane.
Omega-3 PGs are vasodilators that regulate blood pressure and inhibit platelet aggregation
Omega-6 PGs can induce labor by causing contractions of the womb
Omega-3 PGs can relax the myometrium TOP

EFAs in Inflammation

The omega-6 prostaglandin PGE-2 is involved in fever, pain and swelling, menstrual cramps, inflammatory bowel disease, the omega-3 PGE-3 has low inflammatory potential.
The omega-6 leukotriene LTB-4 is involved in asthma, emphysema, bronchitis, dermatitis, psoriasis and ulcerative colitis, while the omega-3 LTB-5 also has low inflammatory potential.
Cyclo-oxygenase enzyme (COX)
Lipo-oxygenase enzyme (LOX)

Therapeutic Use Of Fish Oil for Apraxia, Autism and Other Communication Impairments

Recommended Adequate Intake of EFAs

Fatty Acids Grams/Day %Energy
LA 4.44 2.0
upper limit 6.67 3.0
____LNA 2.22 1.0
DHA & EPA 0.65 0.3
DHA at least* 0.22 0.1
Trans Fatty Acids<2.00___________
* For pregnant and lactating women 0.3 grams/day of DHA
A ratio of omega-6:omega-3 of 2:1 up to 4:1 is recommended
According to the USDA the average ratio of omega-6:omega-3 consumed by the US population is about 10-1. TOP

Omega-3 PUFA and Their Systemic Presence

Roles in cardiovascular disease: maintain lower levels of serum triglycerides, maintain healthy platelet function and blood coagulation levels, lower the risk of sudden death from stroke or cardiac infarct
Roles in prevention and therapy of cancer: are regulators of cancer cell death (apoptosis) during carcinogenesis (breast, prostate and colon cancers), reduce anticancer drug toxicity and facilitate the therapeutic effect of some anticancer drugs
Roles in the eye and brain: are potential regulators of retinal and neuronal signal transduction, appear to be regulators in mood disorders.
What is their role in verbal apraxia? TOP

Relevant Books on Omega-3 PUFA

To learn about the importance of EFAs and their roles in the Central Nervous System see the following books:
1. B. Jacqueline Stordy, Ph.D., and Malcolm J. Nicholl, “The LCP Solution”, Ballantine Books, New York, NY, 2000 (available from the Cherab Foundation)
2. Andrew L.Stoll, M.D., “The Omega-3 Connection,” Simon and Schuster, New York, NY, 2001
To learn about EFAs in general, and how to integrate them in a healthy everyday diet, please consult the following book:
3. Artemis P. Simopoulos, M.D., and Jo Robinson, “The Omega Plan,” HarperCollins Publishers, New York, NY, 1998 TOP

The following was from ‘the First Apraxia Conference’ July 23-24, 2001,Headquarters Plaza Hotel, Morristown, New Jersey USA

and was also presented at the Research Workshop – September 20-21 and on September 22, 2001 ‘Fatty Acids in Neurodevelopmental Disorders’ St Anne’s College, Oxford, UK