Getting to Know the Essential Fatty Acids

Fatty acids are the main components of fat. Essential fatty acids are a type of fatty acid that cannot be produced by the body, but are needed. Therefore, consumption of foods containing essential fatty acids is very important need done regularly.

There are two types of essential fatty acids, namely omega-3 and omega-6. Both are polyunsaturated fatty acids. As we all know, polyunsaturated fatty acids are a type of fat that is good for health.

Unlike other types of fatty acids, essential fatty acids cannot be made by our bodies, but we really need them. Both omega-3 and omega-6 have their respective functions in maintaining a healthy body.

Benefits and Sources of Essential Fatty Acids


Omega-3 is an essential fatty acid that is well known for its health benefits. There are three types of omega-3, namely: eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), docosahexanoic acid (DHA), and alpha-linolenic acid (ALA).

Here are the various benefits of omega-3 for the body:

  • Maintain heart health by increasing the amount of good cholesterol (HDL), lowering triglyceride levels, lowering blood pressure, and preventing the formation of plaque in blood vessels.
  • Helps maintain mental health and reduces symptoms of depression, schizophrenia, and bipolar disorder.
  • Supports brain and eye development in the unborn fetus as well as in breastfeeding infants.
  • Prevent inflammation which is the cause of various chronic diseases.
  • Prevents senile dementia and helps maintain memory.
  • Maintain bone health.

Naturally, omega-3 can be obtained by eating oily fish, such as mackerel, salmon, sardines, trout, tuna, and herring. The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends that every adult consume 2 servings of oily fish per week as a source of omega-3.

Apart from fish, omega-3s can also be obtained from plant foods, such as vegetable oil, flaxseed, dark green leafy vegetables, and nuts. walnuts and hazelnuts.

A study showed that omega-3s obtained from supplements were not as effective as omega-3s from natural sources in lowering cholesterol and triglyceride levels. In addition, taking omega-3 supplements is also at risk of causing excess omega-3 which can cause bleeding.


Another type of essential fatty acid that is less common is omega-6. Even so, these essential fatty acids have functions that are no less important for health, namely:

  • Reducing the risk of heart disease.
  • Lowers bad cholesterol (LDL) and increases good cholesterol (HDL).
  • Reducing the risk of cancer.
  • Helps maintain blood sugar levels by increasing the sensitivity of the body's cells to the hormone insulin.

Natural sources of omega-6 are sunflower oil, sunflower seed, corn oil, olive oil, safflower oil, and pumpkin seeds.

Omega-6 was once feared to have a negative impact on health because one of the main fatty acids in this group, namely linolenic acid, is very easily converted by the body into arachidonic acid. This arachidonic acid can form molecules that cause inflammation. However, further research has shown that only a small amount of linolenic acid is converted by the body to arachidonic acid.

Omega-6 is still needed by the body to maintain a healthy heart and other organs. The recommended ratio of omega-6 and omega-3 consumption is 4:1. If the proportion of your omega-3 intake is much less than omega-6, then you need to increase your omega-3 consumption, not reduce your omega-6 intake.

Essential fatty acids are very important for health. However, because this type of fatty acid cannot be produced by the body itself, you need to consume it regularly, both from food and supplements. If you choose to take essential fatty acid supplements, you should first consult with your doctor, especially if you have a history of bleeding.

Written by:

dr. Irene Cindy Sunur