Essential Fatty Acids (EFAs) are necessary fats that children and adults cannot synthesize, and must be obtained through diet. EFAs are long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids derived from linolenic, linoleic, and oleic acids. There are three families of EFAs:
- Omega-9 is “non-essential” because the body can make small amounts
Omega-3 fatty acids are derived from linolenic acid. Linolenic acid is converted into two important substances that are essential for growth and regulation of inflammation: DHA and EPA. Omega-6 are from linoleic acid and the most important product that results from conversion is GLA. EFAs support development of the digestive tract, brain, nerves, immune, respiratory and cardiovascular system. The human body needs EFAs to manufacture and repair cell membranes, enabling the cells to obtain optimum nutrition and expel harmful waste products.
EFAs regulate inflammation help to regulate and promote immune function. EFAs help the body fight off infection. Essential Fatty Acids are also needed for proper growth in children, particularly for development of the brain and nervous system. These fats also play a role in processing and perception of sensory information. It is very difficult for children to convert essential fatty acids to their active form so young children and children with signs of developmental delay need to ensure they are getting adequate amounts. Boys need higher amounts than girls and because the majority of North American childreen are deficient, this puts children at risk for eczema, allergies, asthma and developmental issues like autism and AD/HD.
We know that a causative factor in eczema, asthma, allegies, AD/HD and autism spectrum disorder is inflammation. Studies have that the overwhelming majority of children with developmental disorders have DHA deficiency and inflammation. EFAs have also been used to help successfully treat eczema, allergies and asthma.
The best source of omega 3 and omega 6 EFAs in children EFA supplements. Other sources are difficult for children to convert. Another complicating factor is that fish, like humans, accumulate toxins in the fat cells that surround organs. Essential fatty acids must be processed to remove these toxins when they are made into supplements.