Essential Fats

  • There are three fatty acids that are considered physiologically essential. These are linoleic acid, arachidonic acid, and docosahexaenoic acid, or DHA.
  • Overt essential fatty acid deficiency in the United States is virtually nonexistent. However, many individuals have a suboptimal fatty acid profile.
  • Evidence suggests that higher omega-3 intake is associated with a reduced risk of several chronic inflammatory conditions, including coronary heart disease, yet many Americans do not get enough omega-3. Meanwhile, consumption of omega-6 polyunsaturated fatty acids in Western countries has skyrocketed in recent decades with the increasing use of industrial seed oils (corn oil, safflower oil, and soybean oil)
    • These industrial seed oils are extracted at a high heat, and the polyunsaturated fatty acids are highly susceptible to oxidation. It is highly preferable to get omega-6 fatty acids from whole food sources, and if we are consuming adequate omega-3 fatty acids, we likely do not need to worry much about whole food omega-6.
  • Since arachidonic acid is a precursor to arcosinoids that mediate local inflammatory signaling pathways, the ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids in the body can potentially influence the amplitude of the inflammatory response. In other words, a diet high in omega-6 fatty acids will enrich cellular membranes with arachidonic acid and have a greater capacity for inflammation.
  • The effects of omega-6 fats on overall physiology are complex and probably depend on multiple factors that can vary individually, including uncontrolled oxidation, eicosanoid production, cell membrane effects, and signal transduction via specialized fatty acid receptors.
  • Anthropological evidence suggests that our hunter–gatherer ancestors consumed omega-6 and omega-3 fats in a ratio of roughly 1:1. Estimates of this ratio in the Standard American Diet range from an average of 10:1 to 20:1.
  • Those not consuming several servings of high omega-3 fatty acid fish and shellfish per week should strongly consider supplementing with omega-3.
    • Cod liver oil (Rosita Real Foods extra-virgin cod liver oil) is a great option as it also provides vitamin A and vitamin D.
      • One teaspoon provides 605 mg of DHA and 443 mg of EPA. However, the amount required for optimal health will greatly depend on the amount of omega-6 in the diet.


  • Linoleic acid and alpha-linolenic acid are defined as dietary essential fatty acids because we cannot synthesize them
  • An essential omega-6 polyunsaturated fat
  • Linoleic acid – – arachidonic acid (ARA) – – docosapentaenoic acid (DPA)
  • Industrial plant oils are highly refined seed and vegetable oils (corn, safflower (margarine), and soybean oil) that contain high amounts of linoleic acid which some research suggests can be harmful when consumed in excess
  • It can be pre-inflammatory if consumed in large amounts when intake of EPA and DHA are low
  • Polyunsaturated fats are much more vulnerable to oxidative damage than saturated or monounsaturated fats.
  • Linoleic acid has been shown to increase the sensitivity of the LDL particle to oxidation
  • High intakes of linoleic acid reduce the conversion of plant-based omega-3 fats like alpha-linolenic acid into DHA and EPA
  • Some farmed fish contain very high amounts of omega-6 linoleic and arachidonic acid, which is likely to have a pro-inflammatory instead of anti-inflammatory effect.
  • Linoleic acid is a component of ceramides, which help form the water barrier in the skin. This barrier helps prevent evaporative water loss and entry of water-soluble irritants. In animal studies, linoleic acid deficiency can result in mild skin scaling, hair loss, and poor wound healing
  • Arachidonic acid can be produced in our bodies using linoleic acid
  • Conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) is a natural trans fat formed when bacteria in the stomachs of grazing animals digest the grass the animal has eaten


Sunflower seeds, black walnuts, Brazil nuts, almonds, turkey w/skin, pistachios, pork bacon, chicken w/skin


  • Arachidonic acid is our most important long-chain omega-6 fat
  • Linoleic acid – – arachidonic acid (ARA) – – docosapentaenoic acid (DPA)
  • It can be produced in our bodies using linoleic acid (LA) or found in animal products such as meat, poultry, and eggs
  • Along with DHA, ARA is the most abundant fatty acid in the brain
  • Arachidonic acid is a precursor to arcosinoids, which act as important local signaling hormones and stimulate an inflammatory response against harmful matters, infection, and injury. This inflammatory response is critical for cellular repair to take place
  • Too much arachidonic acid can contribute to low-grade chronic inflammation
  • Atopic dermatitis and psoriasis have been shown to be improved by omega-3 supplementation, and this is likely due to inhibition of arachidonic acid and reduced inflammation.
  • Arachidonic acid deficiency may increase the risk of chronic inflammation, autoimmune disease, infections, and food intolerances
  • In humans, arachidonic acid deficiency has been shown to cause eczema. In animal studies, arachidonic acid deficiency can also cause infertility, skin bleeding, and internal bleeding
  • The blood thinning effect of fish oil results from EPA interfering with arachidonic acid metabolism.
  • Trauma forms prostaglandins from the breakdown of fatty acids, predominantly arachidonic acid. Many chemical and immunological stimuli activate phospholipids, which liberate arachidonic acid. Much occurs within the platelets that are liberated by trauma. The arachidonic acid ultimately breaks down into prostaglandins capable of causing pain.
  • Risks factors for arachidonic acid deficiency include oxidative stress and a diet that lacks animal protein and linoleic acid, the precursor to arachidonic acid
  • If arachidonic acid is low, Chris Masterjohn recommends increasing arachidonic acid intakes by consuming one 100 gram serving of liver per week and up to 3-4 whole eggs or egg yolks per day. If this is not feasible, an arachidonic acid supplement can be used at 250 milligrams per day with a meal.


Beef kidney, beef liver, eggs, beef brisket, lamb steak, halibut

A recent study revealed that tilapia has the highest levels of arachidonic acid (AA) in the human food chain, with more than 300 milligrams of AA per 100-gram portion.


  • An essential omega-3 fat

  • High intakes of linoleic acid reduce the conversion of plant-based omega-3 fats like alpha-linolenic acid into DHA and EPA

  • Plant oils contain alpha-linolenic acid (ALA)

  • Plant sources of omega-3 such as walnut and flax seed don’t have the same beneficial effects as marine sources like fish and shellfish.

  • While some ALA does get converted into EPA and DHA, the conversion is poor in humans. ALA provides only about 5 to 10 percent EPA and 2 to 5 percent DHA. This means that it is necessary to consume fish and shellfish with pre-formed EPA and DHA to obtain the maximum cardiovascular benefit.

  • It is important not to overcook these foods, as high temperatures can damage these highly unsaturated fatty acids.


Fruits, vegetables, canned beans, flaxseeds, flaxseed oil, chia seeds, and walnuts.

  • DHA is a long-chain omega-3 fat
  • It is produced from alpha-linolenic acid
  • DHA is a primary structural component of the brain, skin, and retina and helps protect the brain from oxidative stress.
  • DHA in particular has been shown to help brain function and improve conditions such as depression, bipolar disorder, and ADHD.
  • Lack of DHA may also contribute to Alzheimer’s disease, depression, anxiety, and ADHD
  • Omega-3 fatty acids ensure that cell membranes will be flexible enough to let in other nutrients.
  • Low DHA is associated with impulsivity.
  • Omega-3 fats such as EPA and DHA may reduce inflammation in the blood vessels and tissues by promoting a pro-resolving set of mechanisms in the inflammatory process.
  • Symptoms of DHA deficiency include low-grade chronic inflammation, impaired cognitive function, learning deficits, and poor visual acuity.
  • Cold-water fish​ are high in EPA and DHA, bioavailable protein and selenium
    • Decreases inflammation, increases membrane fluidity, and positively changes gene expression
    • Consume:​ salmon, mackerel, herring, sardines, anchovies, and sea bass
    • Avoid: high-mercury fish: swordfish, shark, tilefish, and king mackerel
    • Aim for ​one pound to 20 ounces ​of fatty fish per week
  • Vegetarians have 30% lower EPA and DHA levels.
  • Vegans have 50% to 60% lower EPA and DHA levels
  • While some ALA does get converted into EPA and DHA, the conversion is poor in humans. ALA provides only about 5 to 10 percent EPA and 2 to 5 percent DHA. This means that it is necessary to consume fish and shellfish with pre-formed EPA and DHA to obtain the maximum cardiovascular benefit.
  • Cod liver oil contains EPA, DHA, and active vitamins A and D. One teaspoon per day, which contains about one gram of combined EPA and DHA, is beneficial for most people—especially for those that aren’t eating sufficient amounts of fish and seafood. In addition to the important omega-3 fats, cod liver oil contains fat soluble vitamins like retinol and vitamin D. One gram per day is a relatively low dose that mimics what you would get by consuming two to four fish meals a week.