Understanding the difference between AA, ALA, DHA, EPA, GLA, LA, OA

There is much debate about which is the best source of fatty acids.  A mixture of both plant source and fish source gives you a full spectrum of AA, ALA, DHA, EPA, GLA, LA and OA.  The chart below will help you know which ratio is best for you.

 

Common Name

Complete Name

EFA 

Source

Used for

Comments

AA

 

Arachidonic Acid

No

Meats, Eggs and Shellfish

Fetal and infant brain development

Produced from LA Linoleic Acid

ALA

 

Alpha Linolenic Acid

Yes

Primarily in Flaxseed Oil,

Black Currant Oil

High cholesterol, high blood pressure, immune system, male infertility, cancer

Body can convert into DPA and DHA

DHA

 

Docosahexaenoic Acid

No

Fish Oils

 

Lesser Flaxseed oil

Contains hormone like compounds which help rheumatoid arthritis, high triglycerides, high blood pressure, cardiac arrhythmia, infant brain development, cancer, ADD, MS, Crohn's, depression, dementia

 

 

EPA

 

Eicosapentaenoic Acid

No

Cold Water Fish...Cod, salmon, Mackerel

Contains hormone like compounds which help rheumatoid arthritis, high triglycerides, high blood pressure, cardiac arrhythmia, infant brain development, cancer, ADD, MS, Crohn's, depression, dementia

 

GLA

 

Gamma Linolenic Acid

No

Primarily Borage Oils - 20-24%,

Black Currant, Evening Primrose Oil - 8-10%

Anti-inflammatory, vasil dialator, anti coagulant, PMS, arthritis, cardiac disease, diabetic neuropathy, cancer, eczema and psoriasis, retain young looking skin

Derived from Linoleic Acid

LA

 

Linoleic Acid

Yes

Vegetable Oils

 

Poor conversion to GLA.  Usually diet has an excess of LA.  Supplementation rarely needed.

OA

 

Oleic Acid

No

Olive Oil

Reduction in blood pressure, improves membrane fluidity

 

There are 3 precautions to be considered when taking Fatty Acids.

  1. Fatty Acids thin the blood, use only under supervision if you are: on blood thinners, have a bleeding disorder or are a hemophiliac.
  2. Fatty Acid should be taken at least 2 hours away from mucilangenous herbs such as: Psyllium, Slippery Elm, etc.  There is no interaction if taken together, it is just helps prevent the mucilangenous herbs from absorbing the fats and pulling them out of the body.
  3. Fatty Acids should be taken with a protein.   This is true when taking any oil based supplements such as: Vitamins A, D, E and K as well as Flax Seed Oil, Evening Primrose Oils, Black Currant Oil, Omega 3 Oils, etc., to get the full benefit from them.
  • As a matter of fact, isolated oils taken without a protein can cause stress on the liver. They are also more likely to be toxic (vitamins) and can lead to a fatty liver. The reason for this is the supplements are oil soluble and the blood is water soluble  
  • To understand this, think about trying to wash oil off of a pan. The water can't transport the oil. What is needed is a soap such as dawn dish detergent to emulsify (make the oil particles smaller), so that the water can wash away the oil. So it is with the blood and oil supplements
  • To remedy this, I suggest that you take oil soluble supplements with a protein so it encourages the liver to produce bile salts (much like dawn dish detergent) which will then help emulsify the oils, so the blood can transport them to the tissue instead of settling in the liver
  • Good sources of protein are: Nuts, Seeds, Legumes/ Beans, Eggs and Meats

After working with fatty acids for 20 years, I am convinced a mixture of sources is the best way to make sure to have a solid base of EFA's

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