A client recently came to me, with a question about essential fatty acids (EFA).
They are just so confusing to me she said, I understand linoleic acid is an EFA and helps restore barrier function and acts as an anti-inflammatory.
Yet oleic is not an EFA, helps with cell regeneration and provides skin softening properties, and is also moisturising?
I’m trying to understand fatty acid profiles, but going around in circles can you please help?
Fortunately, we love this interesting but little known fatty acid, it has many benefits, and is just great for helping many of the following skin conditions:
- dry Skin
- chronic inflammation
We need exactly the right balance of omega 3, 6, and 9 essential fatty acids in our body to stay healthy, so it’s important to get the right ratio.
Understanding essential fatty acids
First, we need to get technical.
Essential fatty acids (EFAs) are nutrients that our bodies need in a similar way to vitamins and minerals. There are many kinds of EFA’s, fish oil, for instance, belongs to just one kind of family – Omega 3. Other families include Omega 6 and Omega 9.
Essential fatty acids are categorised into these families based on their chemical structure, and each family has different benefits for our health.
A small change in a molecule can result in a big result. The difference between an extra double bond and the addition of two hydrogen molecules can mean one fatty acid like oleic acid – a monounsaturated non-essential fatty acid that our body can produce. Whilst another can mean one like linoleic acid – a polyunsaturated essential fatty acid that our bodies can’t produce.
The extra double bond also means that linoleic acid can go rancid quicker than oleic acid,
The benefits of Omega 6 fatty acids
Gamma-linolenic acid is found in high levels in Evening Primrose and Starflower (Borage) seeds. This fat is processed in the body to make prostaglandins, which are extremely active hormone substances – which assists with balancing hormones, bloating, cramps, and mood swings that accompany PMT.
Plus, it can help to nourish our skin, hair, and nails, supporting a glowing complexion. Studies have found that linoleic acid can restore the barrier function and reduce scaling on your skin. One study also found that using linoleic acid on those with acne reduced the breakout by as much as 25% in 28 days. It can act as an anti-inflammatory, breakout reducer, and moisturising ingredient.
So you can eat your linoleic acid in the form of fats, but we also recommend putting them directly on your skin for maximum lovely benefits – in fact, we love linoleic acid so much for skin health, we created a formula around it called Bio lipid complex.
Just look at some of the benefits of omega 6:
- reduces diabetes
- helps with obesity
- improves atherosclerosis
- prevents blood clots
- lowers blood pressure
- relaxes blood vessels
- reduces inflammation
- improves nerve function
- produces prostaglandins, keeps the blood thin
- lowers LDL cholesterol – bad cholesterol
- relieves symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis
- balances sugar, helping insulin to work more effectively in the body
The only problem is that omega 6 fatty acids are very short-lived in the body, so it’s important to rely on a regular intake of these fatty acids.
The sources of omega 6 fatty acids:
This family of fats comes exclusively from seeds and their oils:
- soya bean oil
- borage oil
- hemp seeds
- pumpkin seeds
- sunflower seeds
- evening primrose oil
- blackcurrant seed oil
The ideal intake is one to two teaspoons of ground seeds a day.
It is important to note, that an intake of too much omega-6 can cancel out the benefits of omega-3, so everything in moderation is key, when thinking about taking your omega 6 fatty acids.