Eat Healthy First Nutrition Plan
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Chapter IX:

Fatty Acids



Researchers have come to a consensus that it is not so much the amount of fat that we eat, as it is the types of fatty acids that we eat. 


The types of the fatty acids consumed affect how well cells can perform their vital functions.



Table of Contents


Fats 9.1: How to Obtain Poly-unsaturated Fatty Acids

Fats-9.2: How to Obtain Mono-unsaturated Fatty Acids (MUFA)

Fats-9.3: How to Obtain Saturated Fatty Acids

     Fats-9.4: Trans-fats   


Introduction to Fatty Acids


          Scientists have gone back and forth on their recommendations as to what fatty acids (fats in lay terms) and other lipids to consume.  Like you, I was confused as to what I should or should not eat. Much erroneous information is still being circulated as being factual, however today research is clarifying most of this misinformation about fatty acids and other lipids as well.

          Understanding how fatty acids function is quite confusing, but choosing foods to obtain this extremely important group of nutrients is actually quite easy.  For this reason a short summary of how to obtain fatty acids is given first so that you will not lose track of what is really important.  The rest of this chapter will be used to provide an in depth explanation of why we need so many different types of fatty acids and how to balance their intake.  We will also uncover some of the myths that have caused all the confusion about their roles in the body.


Some Important Definitions

          Lipids, fatty acids, fats, oils, and triglycerides are terms that we commonly hear when discussing this complex group of nutritional substances. 

Ø  Lipid is a loosely defined term used to cover all substances that contain fatty acids, or that are made from fatty acids.  Lipid is also used to describe substances that have fat like characteristics.  The trait that is mostly used to determine if a substance is a lipid is the way that it disperses in an aqueous environment.  All lipids do not mix well with water and tend to adhere together in globules when in water.   

·        Vitamin A (from animals), vitamin E, vitamin D, vitamin K, cholesterol and all of the fatty acids are examples of simple lipids. 

·        LDL, HDL, phospholipids, and triglycerides are some common examples of the more complex lipids.

Ø  Fatty acids are the basic building blocks from which most lipids are made.  There are about 30 different fatty acids which are common in nutrition.  These are divided into three main families: saturated, mono-unsaturated, and polyunsaturated.

Ø  Triglycerides are made from three fatty acids attached to a glycerol molecule.

·        Fatty acids found in triglycerides are quite stable, which makes triglycerides ideal for storage. Triglycerides are the major way that animals and plants transport and store fatty acids in the body. 

·        The types of fatty acids found in a triglyceride determine its characteristics.  In a triglyceride the fatty acids can be the same or they can be mixed. 

o       Fats are triglycerides that are solid at room temperature. 

§        When most people hear the word ‘fat’, it is the triglycerides stored as fat in adipose tissue that they visualize.

o       Oils are triglycerides that are liquid at room temperature.


          The term fat is very often used in place of the term fatty acid and sometimes is used in place of the term lipid, especially in articles written for the general public.  When the term fat is used, just try to figure out from the context what the author is trying to say.  For clarity I will try to be consistent with the definitions given above.


Note: If you are not familiar with the target fatty acids and their functions, they are explained in depth later in this chapter.


Summary of How to Obtain Target Fatty Acids 

Use this guide in conjunction with the recommendations in both ‘EHF nutrition plans’, presented in Chapter I, to establish what fatty acids should be consumed and where to get them.


Ø  Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids (PUFA)

Omega-6s and omega-3s are critically needed nutrients that we only need in small amounts.  It is more important that we concentrate on obtaining these fatty acids than it is any of the others. They are so important in so many physiological functions that we cannot live without them; however it is also important that we realize that in excess they become harmful.

·        EPA and DHA (The main omega-3 fatty acids we need!)

o       Minimum 4 grams a week of EPA plus DHA with an optimum intake of about 7 to 10 grams per week.  Excess consumption is extremely rare.

o       Cold water fatty fish like wild salmon, herring, sardines, anchovies, and mackerel have about 1.5 to 2 grams per 3½ oz.  (Farmed raised salmon is unpredictable having from 0-4 grams).

o       Halibut, tuna, cod, shell fish and lake trout provide about 0.5 to 1 grams per 3 ½ oz.

o       Other fish, especially fresh water fish, are very low in EPA/DHA ranging from 0 to 0.2 grams per 3 ½ oz.

o       About 0.3 to 0.5 grams/day of EPA but little DHA can be obtained from the conversion of ALA, but this is a very inconsistent source.

o       I realize that some people do not think enough of their body’s health to consume fish or seafood so alternate supplement sources are given in the detailed discussion later in this chapter.

o       Table 9.5 gives other sources and the amount of EPA/DHA that they can provide.

·        Alpha linolenic acid (ALA) The smallest omega-3 fatty acid

o       For vegans the conversion of ALA is the primary source of EPA and DHA.  (This is tricky and will be covered later in the chapter)

o       Controversy exists as to whether ALA is necessary when adequate EPA and DHA are obtained.  About 1.1 to 2.2 grams per day may be needed, a minimum and maximum have not been established,

o       The preferred source is flax seeds and flaxseed oil. (Table 9.5 gives the amounts of ALA in these and other sources.)

·        Linoleic acid (LA) The smallest omega-6 fatty acid and is a critically needed nutrient

o       LA is the most common PUFA found in foods.  It is absolutely necessary for multiple physiological functions; it is definitely needed for us to live.  However LA is also very harmful if over consumed.

o       LA should account for a minimum of 2% with an optimum amount in the range of 4 to 5% of total calories, with a maximum of about 7%.  At 2000 calories a day, this would be about 4 to 10 grams a day and a maximum of 15 grams a day.

o       Nuts, seeds, olive oil, avocado oil and avocados are the best sources for LA.  Small amounts are found in all foods that contain any fat. (See Fats 9.1: How to Obtain PUFA for the amounts of LA in foods.)  LA is so plentiful in foods that a shortage only occurs if a person has “fataphobia” and tries to avoid fats altogether.

o       Excess LA is more of a problem than not getting enough.  To prevent over consumption, avoid using refined vegetable oils including: safflower oil, corn oil, cottonseed oil, soybean oil, nut oils, canola oil, and seed oils.  These contain too much LA.  These oils are very common in restaurant foods especially fried foods.  They are also common in commercial salad dressings.


Ø  Mono-unsaturated Fatty Acids (MUFA)

·        MUFA are not target nutrients which may come as a surprise.  The body can make all the MUFAs that it needs and does not need to obtain any from foods. However, MUFAs are one of the safest sources of calories.  Their intake is only limited by the large number of calories they contain (45 calories /teaspoon).

·        Virgin olive oil, virgin avocado oil, avocados, nuts, and seeds are the best foods from which to obtain MUFA.  They contain other nutrients that have more value than the MUFA itself; these nutrients are lost when refined versions of the oils are used.  

Ø  Saturated Fatty Acids (SFA)

·        SFA are not the artery clogging thugs that they are accused of being, unless you fail to obtain the PUFA levels recommended above.  It is not the SFA that are harmful it is the lack of PUFA that is harmful.  SFA are one the safest known sources of energy.

·        The longer SFA (16 to 20 carbons) are made by the body and are only needed to meet caloric needs and are not target nutrients.

·        The short SFA (4 to 6 carbons long) and the medium SFA (6 to 12 carbons long) are target nutrients.  These help maintain a healthy immune system and a healthy intestine.

o       In normal physiological conditions we only need a small amount of these each day which is easily provided by butter, cheese, coconut products, and palm kernel oil.  Recommend servings are covered in Chapter I.

Ø  Trans-fats

·        Avoid artificial trans-fats.  The trans-fat content must be listed on commercial packages.  If partially-hydrogenated appears in the ingredient list, there can be up to 0.5 grams of trans-fat per serving even the label lists the trans-fat content as zero.

·        Natural trans-fats found in dairy products are more beneficial than harmful.  Their content is not listed on products.

·        The good news is that trans-fats are slowly being removed from all foods.  If you see partially-hydrogenated in the ingredient list, do not buy the product.  This will send an important message to the manufacture. (Note: Partially-hydrogenated is not the same as hydrogenated.  Hydrogenated stands for fully hydrogenated fats which are minimally harmful.)

Ø  Cholesterol

·        Cholesterol is not a target nutrient, but we do not need to avoid it in foods.  The high cholesterol foods like eggs, liver and kidney are not harmful and contain a lot of other nutrients.

This is an over simplified description of what foods to use in order to obtain the fatty acids we need. If you concentrate on obtaining the right amounts of PUFA, both the omega-3s and omega-6s the rest of the fats will probably take care of themselves.  Just watch the caloric intake (1 gram has 9 calories, 1 oz has 270 calories, 1 teaspoonful has 45 calories).


          To fully understand lipids takes a lot of time and study, and definitely can be quite confusing.  The rest of this chapter deals in detail with fatty acids, what they do, why they are recommended or avoided, and where to obtain them.  The amounts and types of fats in various products vary significantly, and several tables are included to help you select which sources to use or not to use.


Fatty Acids

          Most likely you have run across the terms saturated, mono-unsaturated, polyunsaturated, omega-6 and omega-3; but do you know what they do, where they are found, and how much to consume?  All of these are fatty acids that are essential for you to be healthy, many are needed just to keep you alive, but they all can become harmful if consumed incorrectly.

          Once released from their storage sites, free fatty acids become very active.  In the free form, they can quickly react with many substances including sugars, proteins, and enzymes forming many complex lipids that are essential for the body’s physiological functions, but they can also participate in harmful reactions.  For this reason they are usually found in bound up in triglycerides or in lipid complexes until they are needed. 

          The types of fatty acids that we consume significantly alter the composition of the lipids in our body. The mixture of different fatty acids found in lipids change both the characteristics of the lipid and also the characteristics of the cells in which they are found, and ultimately affecting the physiology of our cells and tissues. 

          Fatty acids have been difficult to study creating much confusion about their roles in nutrition. There are over 30 types of fatty acids each having different effects on the everyday functions and health of the body.  Many of these have not yet been adequately studied.  Every fatty acid has a level at which it is beneficial and another level at which if becomes harmful. Most early fat research focused on these harmful effects while overlooking their beneficial activities.  Today fatty acids, which were labeled as harmful, are now being found to be an essential for the proper function of the body when consumed in appropriate amounts.


Families of Fatty Acids

          Table 9.1 lists the most common fatty acids and the families in which they belong.  The number of double bonds determines into what family a fatty acid is placed.  The number of double bonds determines the physical characteristics of the fatty acid, and also the physiological activity of the fatty acids. 

Ø  All saturated fatty acids have no double bonds and physically tend to be solid at room temperature.  Chemically they tend to be rather non-reactive except for energy production.  Because of this they are used as stabilizers or insulators in the locations in which they are normally found.

Ø  Mono-unsaturated fatty acids (MUFA) have one double bond.  They are normally liquids at room temperature, but in mixtures they are also found in soft solid fats.  MUFAs have very low levels of reactivity.  MUFA and longer saturated fats have similar actions in the body, yet there are subtle differences. 

Ø  Polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA) have two or more double bonds.  The longer molecules having more double bonds than the shorter and the omega-3s having more double bonds than the same length omega-6s.  PUFA remain liquid in much lower temperatures than do MUFA.  PUFA are chemically very reactive and they form powerful substances in the body including some extremely important hormones.


Each of the more important fatty acids will be discussed individually later in the chapter.



Table 9.1: Fatty acid families and family sub groups


Ø     Saturated fatty acids (SFA): (SFA contain no double bonds)

·   Short:

§             Butyric acid C4:0 (4 carbons long, 0 double bonds)

§             Note: Sometimes caproic acid is listed as a short SFA

·   Medium:

§             Caproic acid C6:0 (6 carbons long, 0 double bonds

§             Caprylic acid C8:0 (8 carbons long, 0 double bonds)

§             Capric acid C10:0 (10 carbons long, 0 double bonds)

§             Lauric acid C12:0 (12 carbons long,  0 double bonds)

·   Long:

§             Myristic acid C14:0 (14 carbons long, 0 double bonds)

§             Palmitic acid C16:0 (16 carbons long, 0 double bonds)

§             Stearic acid C18:0 (18 carbons long, 0 double bonds)

·   The dietary effects of SFA containing 20 or more carbons have not been well studied.  They are found only in very small amounts.  They tend to be very waxy in texture and may serve mostly as protective coatings. 


Ø     Mono-unsaturated fatty acids (MUFA): (MUFA contain one double bond)

·   Palmolitic acid C16:1 (16 carbons long, 1 double bond)

·   Oleic acid C18:1 (18 carbons long, 1 double bond)

·   Longer MUFA are known, but little is known about their functions

·   MUFA are also know as omega-9 fatty acids


Ø     Polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA): (PUFA contain 2 to 6 double bonds)

Note: The full names of these PUFA are listed in table 9.2 they are way too long to use on a regular basis.

·   Omega-3 fatty acids:

§             C18:3,n-3 ALA (18 carbons long: 3 double bonds)

§             C18:4,n-3 SDA (18 carbons long: 4 double bonds)

§             C20:4,n-3 ETA (20 carbons long: 4 double bonds)

§             C20:5,n-3 EPA (20 carbons long: 5 double bonds)

§             C22:5,n-3 DPAn3 (22 carbons long: 5 double bonds)

§             C22:6,n-3 DHA (22 carbons long: 6 double bonds)

§             Others are uncommon and not well studied

·   Omega-6 fatty acids:

§             C18:2,n-6 LA (18 carbons long: 2 double bonds)

§             C18:3,n-6 GLA (18 carbons long: 3 double bonds)

§             C20:3,n-6 DGLA (20 carbons long: 3 double bonds)

§             C20:4,n-6 AA (20 carbons long: 4 double bonds)

§             C22:5,n-6 DPAn6 (22 carbons long: 5 double bonds)

§             Others are uncommon and not well studied

·   Conjugated linoleic acid (CLA)

§             Usually 18 carbons long with multiple configurations, (28 isoforms are known, most of which have not been adequately studied.)




Target Fatty Acids in ‘EHF’


Fatty acids become targets because:

Ø       They are needed and must be obtained from foods

Ø       Or in excess they can become harmful and must be limited


Essential Fatty Acids

Ø       Fatty acids that we must obtain from food are called ‘essential fatty acids’.

·        All polyunsaturated fatty acids are essential. (Note: Longer PUFA can be made from the shorter PUFA. They are still considered essential because their precursors must be obtained from food.)

o       Omega-3 fatty acids are the most likely to be deficient in diets and are primary target nutrients in ‘EHF’.  Target omega-3 fatty acids are DHA, EPA and ALA.

o       Omega-6 fatty acids are target nutrients that we must have, but that have to be limited because they can easily be over consumed.  Target omega-6 fatty acids are linoleic acid and arachidonic acid.

Conditionally or semi-essential fatty acids

Ø       Conditionally essential fatty acids are those that we can normally make all of what we need, but in certain circumstances we cannot, and then they become target nutrients.

·        In humans two omega-6 fatty acids, GLA and arachidonic acid (AA) can normally be made from linoleic acid.  In diabetics, and as we get older, they become conditionally essential since our ability to make them can drop by up to 90%.

·        Medium chain saturated fatty acids are needed in greater amounts during certain types of infections, so they are conditionally essential during infections of susceptible organisms.

·        Short chain saturated fatty acids are made in significant amounts in the body, but consuming additional amounts improves the overall health of the intestinal tract and the body as a whole.

 Nonessential fatty acids

Ø  Nonessential fatty acids are those that our body can make to meet its needs.

·        Long-chained saturated fatty acids and mono-unsaturated fatty acids are technically nonessential since we make large amounts of both types.  Any excess carbohydrates, proteins, or fats that we consume are converted into these types of fatty acids and stored to be used later for energy.

Saturated fatty acids and mono-unsaturated fatty acids are the safest energy sources that we can consume.  We would do well to consume fewer carbs and protein for energy and consume more of these fatty acids to meet our energy needs.  We can safely consume additional mono-unsaturated and saturated fatty acids to provide energy as long as the following restrictions are met.

·        The total caloric intake from all of the macronutrients (fats, carbs, and proteins) is not exceeded.

·        An adequate intake of all other nutrients obtained from carbohydrate rich foods and proteins (vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients, amino acids etc.) has been accomplished.

·        The minimum amounts of PUFA have been obtained.


            Without an adequate amount of each fatty acid, the biological function that it performs cannot be completed.  A diet too low in fatty acids is always harmful.  A diet too high in fatty acids is only harmful when we fail to consume enough of each of the needed fatty acids, especially the omega-6s and omega-3s. 



I cannot overemphasize how extremely important it is to properly cook food so as not to damage fatty acids.

          Once a good mixture of fatty acids is obtained, the next important thing to do is not to damage them by poor cooking techniques.  When certain types of fatty acids are cooked, their structure and function can be significantly altered, which usually results in the formation of harmful substances.

Ø  PUFA are the most susceptible to high temperatures.  They can become oxidized, can form carcinogens, and can be converted into trans-fats.

Ø  MUFA are much more stable but can have the same fates as PUFA.

Ø  Short and medium SFA are prone to damage from high heat, but the long chained SFA are very stable in higher heat applications.

(Refer to Chapter II: The Role of Cooking for details)


Other Dietary Lipids

          Vitamins A, D, E, and K - Vitamins; A, E, & K must be obtained from foods since we cannot make them.  They also require the presence of other fats so they can be absorbed.  Both ‘EHF’ plans provide more than adequate amounts of these vitamins.

          Vitamin D is a critical nutrient.  We can make adequate amounts of vitamin D when exposed to enough sunshine, but if we avoid the sun or use sunscreens, we must get it from food or supplements.  Vitamin D is so important that it covered separately in ‘Nutrients’.

          Cholesterol is probably the most discussed of the other lipids, and it also is the most misunderstood.  As we will find cholesterol is not the nutritional villain it has been made out to be. Our body can make all the cholesterol it needs so it is not necessary to obtain it from food, it is also does not need to be avoided. Maintaining a healthy cholesterol profile is extremely important in the prevention of cardiovascular diseases and is covered in detail in Chapter X: Cholesterol.

          Stanols and sterols (found in plants) are chemically similar to cholesterol and are promoted as a healthy alternative.  They have been shown to lower LDL by 5 to 15%.  But I have not found any evidence that their use lowers the risk of CVD.  Many foods in ‘EHF’ contain stanols and sterols, but at this time I do not target their intake. In ‘EHF’ seeds, nuts, peanuts, soy beans, spices, beans, vegetables and fruit provide a significant amount of stanols and sterols.  I am waiting for research to establish definite beneficial outcomes through actual reduction of heart attacks, etc. before adding them to the ‘EHF’ target list.

          There are thousands of other lipids found in foods many of whose roles in nutrition have not yet been defined.   Our body makes most of the other lipids that we need, and therefore they are not nutritional targets.



‘EHF’ is not a low-fat diet.  ‘EHF’ provides the fatty acids and other lipids that we need in a balanced nutritional plan.  If you follow the recommendations in ‘EHF-Basic’ or ‘EHF-CR’, you will easily obtain all of the needed fatty acids, while maintaining a good balance between fats, carbohydrates and proteins.


You have enough information that you can skip the rest of this chapter if you would like.  If you decide to skip I strongly recommend that your return later.  There is considerable useful information in greater detail than given above.



Fats 9.1: How to Obtain Omega-3 and Omega-6 Poly-unsaturated Fatty Acids (PUFA)  


Introduction to Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids (PUFA)         


          Omega-6s and omega-3s are critically needed nutrients that we only need in small amounts.  It is more important that we concentrate on consuming the proper amounts of these fatty acids than any other lipid, and they rank with the most important of all nutrients. They are so important in so many physiological functions that we cannot live without them, and they can cause so much harm in excess that we also cannot afford to consume too much.


Table 9.2:

Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids

Omega-6 Fatty Acids

Omega-3 Fatty Acids

LA     = linoleic                            C18:2 ω-6

ALA = alpha-linolenic               C18:3 ω-3  

GLA  = gamma linolenic                C18:3 ω-6

SDA = stearidonic                       C18:4 ω-3

DGLA= dihomo-gamma linolenic  C20:3 ω-6

ETA = eicosatetraenoic               C20:4 ω-3

AA     = arachidonic                       C20:4 ω-6

EPA = eicosapentaenoic            C20:5 ω-3 

DTA   = docosatetraenoic               C22:4 ω-6

DPA3 = docosapentaenoic            C22:5 ω-3

DPA6   = docosapentaenoic             C22:5 ω-6

DHA = docosahexaenoic            C22:6 ω-3


          The following are some important features about PUFAs that you need to know:

Ø       The body cannot make from scratch any of the PUFAs, but it can make some longer PUFAs from their shorter precursors. PUFAs must be obtained from foods or supplements.

Ø       Omega-3s cannot normally be made into omega-6s and likewise omega-6s cannot normally be made into omega-3s. 

Ø       Omega-3s cannot perform the functions of the omega-6s. 

Ø       On the other hand, Omega-6s can be substituted for omega-3s for some vital functions, but in general they are not as functional as their omega-3 counterpart.  For this reason we cannot live without omega-6s but we can live without omega-3s. 

Ø       When we have both omega-6s and omega-3s in adequate amounts, the body functions much more efficiently.  


Functions of PUFA

          Omega-3s and omega-6s function differently, but at the same time share common pathways in which they sometimes work with each other, and in other common pathways in which they compete with each other. 



Functions common to both omega-3s and omega-6s

·        Provide flexibility to the bi-lipid membrane

·        Increase permeability of the bi-lipid membrane which improves the transport of nutrients and waste products in and out of cells

·        Provide energy

·        Reduce the mortality of CVD

·        Working together they help control blood pressure, blood clotting and inflammation



          Each PUFA family member has specific functions that it participates in which allows cells and tissues to function properly.


Table 9.3: Some Functions of Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids

Omega-6 Fatty Acids

Omega-3 Fatty Acids

LA  = Helps maintain skin hydration, source for longer omega-6s

ALA = Unknown other than as a source for the longer omega-3s.  Some claims as to being cardiovascular protective.

GLA = Source for DGLA, may be involved in immune system function.  May have anti-cancer and anti-inflammatory action

SDA = Unknown other than as a source for the longer omega-3s.

DGLA = Source of hormones that have low inflammatory action, low vasoconstriction and low clotting activity.  Has anti-cancer and anti-inflammatory action. Source for AA.

ETA = Has highly anti-inflammatory action and is a source for EPA.

AA = Source of potent hormones that maintain blood pressure, initiates the healing process, important part of the immune system, stimulates protein formation and growth.

EPA = Highly anti-inflammatory, anti-vasoconstrictive, and is a natural blood thinner.  May reduce bi-polar symptoms.  Suppresses the actions of AA.

DTA = Source for AA and DPA6

DPA3 = Unknown except as a source for EPA and DHA

DPA6 = Subs for DHA when there is inadequate DHA in diet.

DHA = Important for the proper function of the eyes, brain, nervous system and heart rhythm.   Suppresses the actions of AA.  Suppresses cancer growth.


All PUFA are primarily stored in phospholipids in the bi-lipid membrane which surrounds every cell.  AA and DHA are contained in the highest amounts followed by EPA, DGLA, and small amounts of LA and ALA. Our safe storage capacity for PUFA in the bilipid membrane is relatively small.  When these storage sites are not full, the body tends to preferentially conserve PUFA, over other types of fat, until the sites are full.  When PUFA are in short supply these sites are filled with MUFA and SFA which are not able to perform the functions of the PUFA. This is why even small intakes of PUFA can have extremely beneficial effects.  The body tends to prefer conserving omega-3s over omega-6s; therefore, we need to consume less omega-3s than omega-6s.

Note: In the bi-lipid membrane and other physiological storage sites PUFA are only found in small amounts.  They are protected from oxidation by the more plentiful saturated fatty acids, mono-unsaturated fatty acids, and cholesterol.  The bilipid membrane also contains a large amount of various antioxidants to prevent oxidation.


Harmful Effects of Excess PUFA

          Because all PUFA are so biochemically reactive, they have the potential to become quite harmful when consumed in excess.  Most of the harmful effects occur when PUFA become non-enzymatically oxidized (also know as peroxidation).  Maintaining a healthy anti-oxidant status in the body significantly lowers the potential of excess PUFA being harmful.

Linoleic acid is the most common PUFA in food but it is not stored in any significant amount in the protected sites of the bi-lipid membrane.  Excess LA is primarily converted into triglycerides and stored in adipose tissue and it is also stored in LDL.  In these locations excess LA is prone to oxidation.   

The fate of excess PUFA in the diet is dependent upon our overall caloric intake. 

Ø  When caloric intake is low or in balance with caloric use, any excess that we consume is rapidly used for energy.

Ø  When caloric intake exceeds our needs, the amount not utilized which is mostly LA will be stored in adipose tissue. PUFA are prone to oxidation during their processing for storage and during storage in adipose tissue.


Table 9.4: Harmful Effects of Excess

Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids

These only occur when PUFA are in excess or when PUFA become oxidized. 

(These are discussed in detail in sections 9.5)

Omega-6 Fatty Acids

Omega-3 Fatty Acids

LA = Promotes cancer formation and growth.  Suppresses conversion of ALA into EPA/DHA.  Excess is very prone to oxidation and the formation of protein modifiers and free radicals.  Increases the formation of macular degeneration.

ALA = Claimed to have both anti-cancer and pro-cancer activity.  Excess prone to oxidation forming harmful by-products.  

GLA = Excess is rare, effects are unknown.

SDA = Unknown

DGLA= Excess is rare, effects are unknown.  Excess can slightly raise AA levels.

ETA = Unknown

AA = Only in excess.  Major promoter of cancer, inflammation, pain, blood clotting, severe allergies, and hypertension.  (Note: The lack of AA is fatal)

EPA = Has anti-coagulant active in extremely high doses. 

DTA = Unknown

DPA3 = Unknown

DPA6 = Unknown

DHA = May slightly over thin blood.  May increase mild non-fatal heart arrhythmias, may increase insulin resistance




Balance Between Omega-3s and Omega-6s

It is claimed that we should consume PUFAs within a narrow range of omega-6 to omega-3 ratios.  Even the experts cannot agree if this ratio is important or not, and those that support the concept cannot not agree upon what the ratio should be.  Depending on the researcher and how this ratio is determined, the range of recommended ratios will vary from 1:1 up to 10:1.

When adequate amounts of preformed EPA and DHA are consumed the ratio means little since adequate levels of EPA and DHA can be directly absorbed into the phospholipids and none has to be obtained through the conversion of ALA.  At this same time the conversion of ALA into its longer family members is suppressed by the presence of adequate amounts of DHA.

Vegans are totally dependent upon ALA as their source of omega-3s since preformed EPA and DHA are only found in meats.  Two important conditions must be met in order for vegans to get most of their EPA and DHA from ALA.

Ø       An LA to ALA ratio in the lower ratios (1:1 to 2.5:1) is important to vegans.  The conversion of ALA into EPA and finally into DHA is the highest in these lower ratios.

Ø       Total consumption of linoleic acid (LA) must be kept at lower levels irregardless of the ratio.  As the intake of LA goes over 3.6% of total calories (8grams/2000 calories/day) a day, it suppresses the formation of EPA from ALA, and the conversion of EPA into DHA is nearly stopped altogether.  This occurs even if the intake level of ALA is high.

Ø       The conversion of ALA into EPA and DHA is marginal at best, which results in vegetarians frequently being deficient in EPA and DHA.

Ø       Vegans can only meet minimum levels of EPA and DHA with foods; they must consume supplements to obtain optimum levels.


When I examined the recommendations of national health boards and expert nutrition panels, I found that 11 of the 15 do not make any recommendations about the omega-6/omega-3 ratio, but focus only on the EPA/DHA intake.  I do not feel that the proper ratio has been established or even if it is actually that important when we concentrate on:

Ø       Consuming adequate amounts of EPA and DHA

Ø       Choosing whole food sources for the omega-6s and avoiding refined sources

Ø       Controlling caloric intake  

When we do these three things the ratio will take care of itself and fall into a healthy range.  On the other hand consuming large amounts of omega-6s and little or no omega-3s can easily cause ratios of 10:1 and even higher.  Ratios of 30:1 and higher are not uncommon.  Ratios over 10:1 are usually harmful. 

For your information in ‘EHF’ the total omega-6 to total omega-3 ratio is about:

Ø   2.5:1 when total omega-6 (LA, GLA, AA)  to total omega-3 (ALA, EPA, DHA) is used


What is more important than the ratio?

Based on the research articles that I have read, I feel that it is much more important to do the following rather than to concentrate on some abstract ratio:

1.     Obtain as least the minimum amounts needed of each type of PUFA so that they can properly perform their functions.  I have been very impressed at how much benefit is achieved in just consuming small amounts of PUFA, especially the omega 3s.  As we ascertain the optimum amounts, I feel that we will get even better results, but at this time we are just starting to get a rough idea about what the optimum amounts are.

a.     EPA plus DHA about 0.3% to 0.7% of total calories (for a 2000 calorie a day intake this is about 0.6 grams to 1.5 grams, with an upper limit of about 1.5% or 3 grams a day.)

b.     ALA about 0.4% to 1.0% of total calories (for a 2000 calorie intake this would be1.1 to 2.2 grams a day.)

c.      Linoleic acid (LA)  2.0% to 5.0% of total calories with an upper limit of 8% (for a 2000 calories intake this would be about 4.4 to 10 grams a day with an upper limit of 15 grams )

d.     Vegans – It has been estimated that no more than 3000-5000 mg of ALA can be converted into about 300 - 500 mg of EPA/DHA, and this only occurs when the LA intake is kept in a range of 3000 to 8000 mg a day.

2.     It is very important not to exceed the safe limits of the combined total of all PUFA, both the omega-6s and omega-3s.  An upper limit of about 7 to 10% of total calories and an average around 5% is a good goal. As mentioned earlier, excess PUFA are prone to oxidation and can result in the formation of large amounts of protein modifiers.

3.     Choose nutritious sources for PUFA instead of highly refined sources.


Where to Obtain Omega-3 Fatty Acids

    Omega-3 fatty acids are much more likely to be deficient in diets than are the omega-6 fatty acids.  When omega-3s are in short supply:

·   The omega-6 fatty acid arachidonic acid is prone to harmful over expression.

·   The chance of dying from a heart attack increases by 30 to 50%.

·   The nervous system, vision acuity, and heart rhythm are negatively affected.

·   Cancers can grow more quickly.

For these reasons omega-3s are important target nutrients in ‘EHF’. 


Table 9.5: Food Sources for Omega-3 Fatty Acids

(Caution: Actual amounts will vary seasonally by up to 30 %.)








Sources for EPA and DHA

Fish oil

1000 mg  cap (varies)



Fish oil  extra strength

1700 mg cap (varies)


0.4 - 0.7

Krill oil

150-200 mg /1000 mg


0.15– 2.0


144 g / 1 fillet



Salmon, farmed

178 g / 1/2 fillet


0.2 - 3.8


176 g/ 1 fillet



Salmon, Chinook wild

154 g / 1/2 fillet



Salmon, Coho wild

170 g / 6 oz



Cod liver oil

13 g / 1 tbsp




100 g / 4 ea




100 g / 3.5 oz



Trout, Rainbow wild

143 g / 1 fillet




159 g / 1/2 fillet



Tuna, Albacore

100 g / 3.5 oz



Tuna, Ahi (yellow fin)

100 g / 3.5 oz




50 g / large



Eggs, omega-3 enriched

50 g / large



Cod and Shrimp

100 g / 3.5 oz



Tuna, light in water

100 g / 3.5 oz



Conversion of ALA into EPA

EPA converted from ALA by

Males & older females

**The maximum amount of ALA that can be converted per day and the estimated amounts of EPA/DHA formed



EPA** converted from ALA by

Young Females



Sources for ALA (alpha-linolenic acid)

Flax  seeds whole

10 g / 1 tbsp



Flaxseed oil

14 g / 1 tbsp




28 g / 1oz



Walnut Oil

14 g / 1 tbsp



Canola Oil

14 g / 1 tbsp



Soybean Oil

14 g / 1 tbsp




28 g / 1 oz



 Chia seeds

28 g  /1 oz



*Amounts that can be converted to EPA/DHA daily from ALA.  The other amounts in the EPA/DHA column are preformed EPA/DHA. 




          The need for EPA and DHA in humans has been clearly established.  EPA and DHA have a limited ability to be converted back and forth between each other, so we combine their content in food into a single target intake.  (Note: DPA3 is often included in the total omega-3 content in products.  This is okay since it can be converted into both EPA and DHA.)        

          It is actually very simple to get all the needed EPA and DHA.  Just eat a few servings of cold water fish a week.  Fish, YUCK! Then you are going to have to work a lot harder to get these important fatty acids or you will have to consume a supplement.


Recommended Intake of EPA and DHA

¨     ‘EHF’ goal is 1200 to 1500 mg a day. 

§        Most researchers feel that we need at least 500 to 650 mg of EPA and DHA daily to prevent an outright deficiency.  It is amazing just how beneficial this small amount is.

§        A range of 800 to 1800 mg a day is starting to emerge as optimum.

§        Amounts up to 3000 mg a day seem to be safe.  Some studies have shown that 3000 mg a day of EPA/DHA will attain maximum tissue levels of DHA.

§        High doses of up to 4000 mg are being used as drugs to reduce triglycerides, rheumatoid arthritis, macular degeneration and bi-polar diseases.  Amounts at this level should only be used under medical supervision.  Optimum dosing for these uses have not been established.

¨     The best sources for EPA and DHA are listed in Table 9.5.

¨     ALA might serve as a secondary source for EPA and DHA, but it is inconsistent.  ALA is recommended at about 2.2 grams a day which on the average can be converted into about 0.3g of EPA/DHA.  Younger women can convert about 4.0g a day into about 0.5g of EPA/DHA.  (Note: Read the next section about ALA for more information)


Triglyceride vs. Ester vs. Phospholipid Sources of EPA and DHA


          Supplements can provide concentrated sources of EPA and DHA (n3) in several ways.  Controversy exists as to which form is the best.  One thing is very clear is that all these forms are effective and which one is best is just an academic exercise.

          Natural fish oils only provide about 300 mg of n-3 per 1000 mg of the oil.  Krill oil has an n-3 content of about 150 to 200 mg/1000mg. 

          By taking the fish oil and extracting the n-3s and re-esterifying them, the n-3 content can be concentrated.

Ø       Esterifying into triglycerides can concentrate the n-3 up to about 500 mg/1000mg.

Ø       Esterifying into ethyl-esters (Rx only) can concentrate the n-3 up to 980 mg /1000mg.

Using 1.5 grams a day for 6 months of the triglyceride form achieved a 186% increase in red blood cells, while the ethyl-ester form achieved an increase of 161%.

          Krill oil represents phospholipid source of the n-3s.  The omega-3 attached to phospholipids absorb a little quicker than do the other forms, and the suppliers claim that they are much more bioavailable.  In a 4 week study an n-3 dose of 306 mg/d from krill increased the n-3 content 46%, while a dose of 390 mg/d from natural mendenhaden fish oil increased the n-3 level 57%.  After adjusting for n-3 content in the supplements used in the study, these numbers are nearly identical.  If krill has a bioavailability advantage, it is not shown in this study.  Krill does have a good antioxidant called astaxanthin, which also in wild salmon and other pink colored seafood.

          All three forms of omega-3fatty acids are so closely equal that I do not feel that it is necessary to use one over the other.   Suppliers that are claiming to be superior are just trying to justify their higher price tag.  However, there is one claim that may be valid in that krill and ethyl-esters may have lower tendency for a burpy-fishy taste.  I’ll let you be the judge of that, personally I not seen any difference.


Alpha-linolenic Acid or ALA (C18:3, n-3)


          ALA poses a special problem. Here is a nutrient that has an identity crisis.  It looks like we need it, but research cannot prove that it is actually needed except in vegetarian diets.  ALA is converted into EPA/DHA when EPA/DHA levels are low; mostly EPA is formed with very small amounts of DHA being formed. When EPA/DHA levels are adequate this conversion almost completely shuts off.  When ALA is researched we do not know if it is the ALA giving the benefit or the EPA/DHA being made by it giving the benefit.  What we do know is that when ALA is supplemented (up to 0.65% of calories) in a low EPA/DHA environment, we see nearly a 50% reduction in CVD deaths.   This benefit decreases as we age and also decreases in diabetics.  Which is similar to what we see when EPA and DHA are supplemented, but when EPA/DHA levels are adequate, there seems to be no additional benefit from adding ALA.

          Note: I am not totally convinced that consuming ALA is necessary when adequate EPA and DHA are available.  ALA has very limited distribution in natural foods only being found in significant amounts in flax seeds, chia seeds, and walnuts.  In most foods ALA is found in such small amounts that we would never be able to obtain the recommend amounts given below.  ‘EHF’ still includes ALA as a target nutrient primarily because its natural sources provide many other nutrients and there is some indication that ALA may have beneficial potential beyond that which has been proven.  However, ‘EHF’ does not recommend obtaining ALA from refined and nutrient poor sources such as canola oil or soy bean oil.

          Vegans depend on ALA to get their EPA/DHA.  When they are younger they can meet most of the minimum EPA/DHA requirements, but not the optimum requirements. Total vegans are nearly always deficient in meeting minimum EPA/DHA requirements and cannot come close to obtaining the optimum amounts, unless they consume supplements. As vegans get older, or if they are diabetic, their ability to convert ALA diminishes rapidly so that the levels of EPA/DHA being formed from ALA are reduced to even lower levels.


Ø  Obtain about 1.1 to 2.2 grams a day (8 to 15g per week) of ALA. 

·        ‘EHF’ sources: Flaxseeds ground (1.6g/Tbsp), flaxseed oil (2.4g/tsp), and walnuts** (0.3g/each)

o       **English walnuts contain 2.5 g/oz, but contain too much LA at 10.7 g/oz.  Limit walnuts to a max of 2 halves or less per day

o       ALA is found in small amounts in many foods including:  Spices, soybeans, and peanuts, but not enough to significantly increase total intake levels

o       Canola oil (0.3g/tsp) and soybean oil (0.3g/tsp) contain significant amounts of ALA, but they are not ‘EHF’ recommend because they lack other nutrients and they contain too much LA.

·        ALA is being found add to cereals, peanut butter, breads, etc.  It also is used to enrich chicken feet to increase the amounts in eggs. There is no way to predict ALA content unless the amount is labeled on the product.

·        Table 9.5 lists some of the best food sources for ALA.

Ø  Establishing the upper limit for ALA intake is dependent on many factors which makes setting an upper limit difficult.  Since the body can only convert a maximum of about 2.2 to 4 grams a day of ALA into EPA, there does not seem to be any advantage to consuming more than 4 grams a day.

Ø  When the total caloric intake is well controlled, any small amount of ALA that is not needed is rapidly burned for energy and does not cause any harm.  Excess ALA will only occur if supplements are used or a lot of flaxseed oil or canola oil is used.  Remember that excess ALA is prone to oxidation and forms harmful byproducts just like LA.  Maintaining a healthy antioxidant status helps to prevent the unwanted oxidation of all PUFA including ALA.



How to Obtain Omega-6 Fatty Acids


Linoleic Acid – LA (C18:3n-6)


Linoleic acid is as beneficial as it is harmful.  I have and am going to make a lot of negative comments about linoleic acid, but do not be misled, in the correct amounts linoleic acid is critical nutrient needed for us to be healthy.


Humans cannot make linoleic acid (LA), so we must obtain it from food; therefore LA is considered to be an ‘essential fatty acid’.

Ø  Its main function is to serve as a precursor to the longer omega-6 family members: GLA, DGLA and arachidonic acid.

Ø  LA is needed for the skin to form a protective barrier that keeps the skin hydrated.  If LA is deficient in the diet the skin can develop a type of dermatitis.  However, excess LA in the skin has been possibly linked to an increase in skin cancers.

Ø  It is a minor component of the bilipid membrane that surrounds every cell of the body.  Originally it was thought that LA had a positive effect on cholesterol levels. High intakes of LA will temporarily lower cholesterol, but that was because cholesterol was taken up by the cell’s bilipid membrane for protection from harm caused by a high concentration of LA.  Excess levels of LA in the membrane will cause the membrane to weaken, and the LA in the membrane is prone to crystallization.  High LA content in the bi-lipid membrane causes it to lose some of its ability to regulate what enters or leaves the cell, which can be very harmful.

Ø  Excess linoleic is stored as triglycerides in adipose tissue.  In this form is prone to being released as a free fatty acid.  LA in the free fatty acid form does nothing but get into trouble.

Ø  The major problem with high LA intake is associated with its susceptibility to be modified by peroxidization.  Peroxidized LA is then referred to as oxLA. OxLA can be taken up in place of normal LA in cells and tissues where it becomes very harmful.

·        OxLA taken by LDL is now implicated as a major contributor, if not one of the main causes of unstable atheroma in atherosclerosis.  (Explained in Diseases: Atherosclerosis)

·        OxLA stimulates the production of free radicals wherever it is found.

·        OxLA, when metabolized, forms extremely potent and harmful types of protein modifiers.

Note: OxLA is a very harmful substance.


How Much Linoleic Acid (LA) Do We Need?

    Controlling excess LA intake is very important, but making sure we obtain adequate amounts is even more important. ‘EHF’ concentrates on keeping LA consumption at historical levels of about 6 to 10 grams per day, with an upper limit of 15 grams in any one given day. (For 2000 calories a day this is about 3.6% of total calories.)  It is quite common that people consume 5 to 30 times more LA than that they can safely utilize. 

    Some newer research is starting to show that LA in excess of 8 g per day might be harmful for certain conditions like macular degeneration and cancer.  This presents a dilemma since the higher amounts seem to lower CVD.  At this time I feel we have a major gap in our knowledge base.  Based on the available information, I feel that the 6-10 g range is very safe and amounts up to 15 grams is safe when consumed with adequate amounts of omega-3s and a healthy antioxidant status is maintained. 

    Vegans tend to consume too much LA, which reduces the conversion of ALA into EPA and stops the formation of DHA. Vegans need to maintain the ratio of LA to ALA between 1:1 & 2.5:1 (a 10 to 1 ratio is common and is too high!).  The ratio’s importance is lessened and may not even exist when vegans utilize supplements that provide EPA and DHA.


Sources for Linoleic Acid


    Table 9.6: Sources of Linoleic Acid gives the EHF recommended sources for linoleic acid and also some sources that need to be severely limited.  It is the total amount of linoleic acid consumed from all sources that we need to control.  We can exceed our limit of LA just as easily from foods that we need for other nutrients as well as from the foods we need to avoid.

    It is difficult to estimate LA content in commercial products because they often have mixtures fats which contain several different types of fatty acids.  Most products do not list the amount of LA that they contain.  A few products will list their amount of polyunsaturated fats, which is usually LA.  Estimating LA content in restaurant foods is nearly impossible.

Ø  Obtain LA from nutritious sources like: nuts, seeds, virgin olive oil, and avocados.  Whole grains, legumes, and vegetables are minor sources.

·        Approximate LA content in ‘EHF basic’ is about 8.8 g/day.

·        If peanuts or walnuts are used, the total can jump quickly to 15 g a day.

Ø  Avoid using highly refined sources of linoleic acid: Safflower oil, corn oil, cottonseed oil, soybean oil, canola oil, and also refined light olive oil.  These oils are totally lacking in other nutrients.  These oils are also especially prone to forming oxLA, when cooking temperatures increase. 

Ø  Most packaged baked and fried can contain significant amounts of LA.  The LA in these products can frequently be oxidized before we consume them. Unfortunately the LA content is not on the Nutrient Facts Label.

Ø  Fried foods in restaurants usually are cooked with some type of oil that has a lot of LA.  These oils are especially prone to oxidation and the formation of oxLA.  It is best to avoid all fried foods including those we cook at home.  High-oleic oils are starting to be used more often which may reduce this warning in the future.

Ø  Most nut oils and seed oils are refined, but there are some that are not.  Nut and seed oils should be severely restricted and only the virgin (non-refined) sources should be used.  (Note: if these are used in place of olive or avocado oil, the daily intake of LA could jump to 15 g/day if used sparingly and to 20 to 30 g/day if used moderately.)


Special Note:  When foods promote that they are high in PUFA, that PUFA is nearly always linoleic acid.  Use caution when using these products so that you do not exceed the safe limit of linoleic acid.  There is no question that PUFA, including LA, are essential for us to be healthy, but their over consumption is unhealthy.  


Table 9.6: Sources of Linoleic Acid (LA)

Serving Size




‘EHF’ recommend sources (watch caloric intake)

Olive oil (Virgin)

1 tsp/4g

0.4 g

Red Palm oil

1 tsp/4g

0.4 g

Avocado oil (Virgin)

1 tsp/4g

0.6 g

Coconut oil, palm kernel oil, butter

1 tsp/4g


Flax Seeds Ground,

1 tbsp/7g

0.4 g

Flaxseed oil

1 tsp/4g

0.4 g

Mixed Nuts (without Peanuts)

1 oz /28g

2.4 g

Macadamia Nuts

1 oz /28g

0.3 g


‘EHF’ recommended, but intake must be closely  watched

Peanut oil

1 tsp/4g

1.4 g

Sesame Seeds, poppy seeds

1 tbsp/7g

1.7 g

Sesame seed oil

1 tsp/4g

1.9 g

Cashews, hazelnuts

1 oz /28g

2.1 g

Poppy Seed Oil, Walnut oil

1 oz /28g

2.8 g

Almonds, Pistachios

1 oz /28g

3.3 g

Vegetables, fruit, whole grains, legumes




½ ea /100g

3.4 g




‘EHF’ approved, but severely limit use due to high LA content


1 oz /28g

4.3 g

Brazil nuts, pecans, Pumpkin seeds

1 oz /28g

5.8 g

Sunflower Seeds Dried

1 oz /28g

6.5 g


1 Tbsp/14g

7.1 g

Sunflower seeds (oil roasted), Pine Nuts

1 oz/28g

9.5 g

Walnuts English

1 oz /28g

10.8 g

Avoid if possible due to poor nutrient profile or harmful products

Canola oil

1 tsp/4g

0.8 g

High Oleic Safflower, soybean, canola

1 tsp/4g

0.6 g

Safflower, Cottonseed, Soybean, Corn oils

1 tsp/4g

2.3 – 3.4 g

All partially-hydrogenated oils

Do not use

Do not use

All refined oils of any type use their virgin sources

Severely limit



Arachidonic Acid (C20:4, n-6)   


      Arachidonic acid (AA) is the most active omega-6 and is critical to sustain life.  Without AA we will quickly fall into poor health and extreme shortages are fatal.  It produces some of the body’s most potent hormones that are vasoconstrictive, pro-clotting, and inflammatory. When these actions are not balanced with the actions of the omega-3s, they become very harmful, but when these actions are contained within the desired limits, they are necessary to: maintain blood pressure, stop bleeding, and for healing of injuries.  AA is also needed for growth, protein formation, and reproduction.

      Arachidonic acid, like DHA, is stored primarily in the phospholipid component of the bi-lipid membrane.  When EPA and DHA levels are low, arachidonic acid levels in the phospholipids will slightly increase.  Without EPA and DHA to compete with AA, the over expression of the hormones made by AA can occur.  When there is adequate EPA and DHA, there is less AA available to be converted into hormones.  Secondly EPA uses the same enzymes used by AA to make its own less-reactive hormones.  This combination significantly reduces blood clotting, inflammation, and vasoconstriction.


Sources of Arachidonic Acid

      Plants do not contain AA, but AA can be made from LA and GLA, which are found in plants. Most of the AA in humans is made from linoleic acid.      Preformed AA is found in the highest amounts in seafood and pork, and it is found in significant amounts in other meats.  Seafood is the best because it also supplies EPA and DHA needed to balance the AA, while pork and other meats have little or no omega-3s to create balance. 

Ø     There is no recommend RDA for AA in adults.

·        Most likely we need in the 1 to 4 grams a day range (exact amount is not known).

·        The body’s regulation of AA levels is tightly regulated.

o    The formation of AA from DGLA is suppressed when EPA and DHA levels are high.

o    Once an adequate amount of AA is present, the body’s biofeedback mechanisms block the formation of additional AA. 

o    The formation of AA from LA and DGLA is stimulated when AA, EPA and DHA levels are low.

o    It is not likely that a person will consume an excess of preformed AA, in fact inadequate amounts are more likely to occur as we get older and especially in diabetics.  Excess AA occurs mostly from excess LA in the diet in combination of low levels of omega-3 intake.

·        RDA: In children it is recommended that they get about 0.5% of their calories as AA.  Children need AA for growth.

o    Equivalent to the amount found in breast milk

o    Or found in  1½ oz of meat

o    Or made from 1000mg of linoleic acid


Ø     Sources: Amounts per 100 g or 3.5 oz

·        1.2g in farmed salmon

·        0.3g to 0.6g  in brain, liver, pancreas of all animals and egg yokes

·        0.3 to 0.5g in all poultry meat, and wild fish

·        0.1g to 0.2g in beef, pork, and lamb

·        We can make an amount equivalent up to about 0.5 to 2 grams of AA from linoleic acid each day, but this amount can vary considerably.

·        Diabetics and the aged may need to consume more foods containing preformed AA since the enzymes needed for the conversion of LA are reduced.

·        Arachidonic acid is not found in plant sources, but some can be made from GLA, which is found in plants.  GLA is easily converted to DGLA, which then can be converted to AA. The formation of AA from GLA is more efficient than making AA from LA and may be a good source of AA for diabetics and the elderly.

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Fats-9.2: How to Obtain Mono-unsaturated Fatty Acids (MUFA)


          Humans make considerable amounts of MUFA, so they do not need to be target nutrients.  However, since MUFA are among the safest sources of energy, they can be used to supply from 10 to 25% of the body’s energy.  (Note: Do not forget to obtain adequate amounts of PUFA and SFA before consuming extra MUFA.)


Sources of Mono-unsaturated Fatty Acids (MUFA)

‘EHF’ preferred sources

Ø  The best MUFA sources are: avocados, virgin olive oil, red palm oil, virgin avocado oil, nuts, and seeds.  These sources are all very nutrient rich which is more important than their MUFA content.

·        70-79% - Olive oil, avocado oil, almond oil, hazelnut oil

·        50-59% - Macadamia nuts, goose fat, duck fat, fish oils

·        40-49% - Peanut oil, sesame seed oil, hazelnuts, sunflower oil, lard

·        30-39% - Palm oil, almonds, beef fat, mixed nuts

·        20-29% - Butter, cashews, peanuts, pistachios, flaxseed oil, sesame seeds, poppy seeds


Ø  Seafood is a good source of MUFA because it also provides the omega-3 fatty acids and several other nutrients.  Sea foods are about 8% to 10 % MUFA.


Less Desirable MUFA Sources

Ø  Caution: Vegetable oils (safflower, corn, soybean and cottonseed) contain MUFA, but they contain too much linoleic acid to be used regularly.  They also are highly refined removing any other beneficial nutrients that their sources may contain.  I do not recommend these sources be used, but their occasional consumption is not harmful.

Ø  Canola oil is 63% MUFA, but is highly refined reducing its value.  Reportedly canola contains contaminates that may be harmful.  Canola is also very prone to unwanted peroxidation.

Ø  High oleic vegetables oils (high oleic soybean, high oleic canola and high oleic safflower oils) are about 70% MUFA, with much lower amounts of linoleic acid than their natural sources.  Their high fatty acid profile is very good, but they are highly refined and totally lack any other nutrients.  These do not need to be avoided, but the nutrient rich ‘EHF’ preferred choices are much better sources.


Return to Contents


Fats-9.3: How to Obtain Saturated Fatty Acids


RDI for Saturated Fatty acids


Ø  At this time there has been no official RDI for any of the eight individual types of saturated fatty acids.  I consider this to be a major weakness in our knowledge base.  As can be seen in the function section, each individual SFA contributes significantly to our health, but we need to know how much to consume of each type.  At this time the best I can do is use an educated guess of how much of each these eight saturated fatty acids that should be consumed.

Ø  The RDI set for total SFA intake is about 7% to 10% of calories.  Consuming more is not harmful as long as adequate PUFA are obtained.  Focus on obtaining 5% -10% of total calories from the short and medium SFA; these are considered safe in any amount unless total calories are exceeded.  EHF basic’ provides about 7% of total calories as short and medium fatty acids.  Using discretionary calories to increase this amount to 10% would be putting the calories to a very good use.

·        Short C4:0 (Butyric) (% of weight)

§        Butter 3%, hard cheeses 1.5%, cheese 1%, soft cheese 0.5%, whole milk 0.1%. Note: goat and cow sources are about the same.

§        Low fat products are lack SFA.

§        EHF Basic provides about 1.5 grams a day (0.6% total calories)

·        Medium C:6 to C:10 (Caproic, caprylic, and capric acids)

o       ‘EHF basic’ provides about 3.9 grams/day about 0.6% of total calories

o       Coconut oil (14%), palm kernel oil (7%), butter (6%), goat cheeses (4%), hard cheeses (4%), soft cheeses (2-4%), heavy cream (2%) (Goat products are slightly higher than bovine)

·        Medium C12:0 (Lauric acid)

o       ‘EHF basic’ provides about 13 grams/day or about 5.2% of total calories

o       Coconut oil (45%), palm kernel oil (47%), coconut raw or cream (15%), butter (2%), cheeses (1 to 2%)       

·        Red palm oil (RPO) is very high in palmitic acid (C16:0). RPO also contains relatively high amounts of vitamin E and other carotenoids. RPO has shown, in multiple studies, to be as safe to use as olive oil, and has much better culinary properties.

o       RPO is often criticized because if it used in excess it can raise LDL levels.  The LDL is the larger non harmful type of LDL.  It does not raise the level of small LDL3 type which is known to be harmful.

·        Palm kernel oil has a fatty acid profile similar to coconut oil. Yet it does not have the recognition as being a healthy type of oil to use.  Most commercial palm kernel oil has been hydrogenated which alters its beneficial components.  Make sure to consume only virgin palm kernel oil not the hydrogenated types.

·        Beef, pork, poultry, and lamb fat have large amounts of the C14:0 and C16:0 types of SFA. It is not a bad idea to trim off any excess fat from these products. These fats are now being found not to be as harmful as once thought. Since these fats have lots of calories and few other nutrients, let’s utilize the calories for foods that provide more nutrition or better yet something yummy like ice cream.

o       The fats in these products are not harmful when consumed with adequate amounts of the PUFA, but, if only these types of fats are consumed, they can be harmful.

o       Most of the harm caused by meats is not the fat they contain but the methods by which they are cooked. (See Cooking) 

·        Stearic acid (C18:0) is very safe to consume and is one of the best sources of energy as long as you watch the calories.  Humans make a lot of stearic acid, so we do not even need to seek it out in foods.

o       Stearic acid in fresh meats average about (8 to 10%), baker’s chocolate (18%), butter (12%), and nuts (3 to 5%).


Coconut and Palm Kernel oils

          Worldwide coconut oils and palm kernel oils are among the most highly consumed types of oils. They are also high in saturated fats.  Neither has ever been associated in modern controlled studies with increased CVD even when consumed in amounts up to 60% of total calories.  Yet they continue to be linked to CVD and should not be.  Earlier studies that gave these oils a bad name used hydrogenated coconut oil and totally avoided using any PUFA.

          Both contain large amounts of the medium chain saturated fatty acids (MCSFA) that have multiple health benefits.

Ø       Myristic acid and lauric acid boost immune system function by stabilizing white blood cells.

Ø       All provide nutrients for healthy bacteria in the GI tract.

Ø       Tend not to be fattening because they are extremely efficient in being processed for energy.  The addition of 1 or 2 tablespoonfuls of MCSFA in controlled studies have shown a reduction of visceral abdominal fat.

Ø       Have anti-infective action against multiple types of bacteria, fungi, and viruses.  (Human breast milk also contains MCSFA, which are attributed to providing much of the protective benefit against infections in newborns.)

Ø       Cultures that consume coconut oil on a regular basis have lower CVD rates than those that do not.  It is speculated that the anti-microbial activity of MCSFA, and the reduction of visceral abdominal fat, may be the reasons for this observation. (One isolated culture consumes nearly 60% of their calories from coconuts, and they have one of the lowest CVD rates in the world.)

Ø       MCSFA raise HDL and lower triglycerides, both of which are beneficial.


          The MCSFA seem to work best in combination with each other, although lauric acid is the most potent alone.  Each of the MCSFA alone has varying anti-microbial activity, but the anti-microbial activity is synergistic when used together.

          The anti-infective action is specific against organisms that use a lipid shield to protect themselves once they have entered into the body. The monoglycerides of these fatty acids help to disable this protective shield and allow the body’s immune system to attack the organism.   These fatty acids do not work alone and the immune system must be functional in order for this benefit to occur.  However adding MCSFA to the diet can help the immune system to reduce or eliminate the following organisms:

Ø       Some viruses reportedly inactivated by these lipids are HIV, the measles virus, herpes simplex virus-1 (HSV-1), vesicular stomatitis virus (VSV), visna virus, and cytomegalovirus (CMV).

Ø       Bacteria reportedly inactivated are H-pylori, Listeria monocytogenes, Staphylococcus aureus, Streptococcus agalactiae, Groups A, F & G streptococci, gram-positive organisms, and some gram-negative organisms.

Ø       A number of fungi, yeast, and protozoa are reportedly inactivated or killed by lauric acid.  The fungi include several species of ringworms, the yeast Candida albicans, and the protozoan parasite Giardia lamblia. 

Ø       The medium chain fatty acids have been used in the food industry to control organism growth in many types of foods for a long time.


          There are just a limited number of small studies supporting these claims, but the results are consistently positive.  What are lacking are additional dosing studies.  We need a lot more research on this subject. 

Ø       I have personally witnessed one case of hepatitis C in its early stage being completely eradicated in a very healthy person using coconut oil.  The infection disappeared between two appointments about a month apart and has remained in remission for 5 years.  The treating doctor (a specialist) had never had a previous patient successful in totally eradicating the virus.   

Ø       I have also had a person with long term hepatitis C having their blood titers significantly reduced but not eliminated by coconut oil.  Reports of this are quite common.

          There is no clearly defined intake of MCSFA to use.  Intakes equivalent to 2 to 4 tablespoonfuls of coconut oil a day have been proposed for susceptible infections but there is a lack of research to back up these amounts.  (Four tablespoonfuls a day was the dose used in the hepatitis C treatments mentioned above.)  One study in the Philippines showed that there was a definite beneficial effect of consuming 2 tablespoonfuls a day vs. 1 tablespoonful a day; reducing the rate of heart attacks by nearly a third.  (Note: Even at 1 Tbsp/per day the rate of heart attacks was about 1/10th that of the U.S.A.)


Recommended Coconut Oil Intake

    At this time ‘EHF’ recommends that 1-2 tablespoonfuls of coconut oil be used daily, and that the amount be increased to 4 tablespoonfuls during susceptible infections. I would like to see more research to better establish recommended levels for this underutilized food.

          I do not have a dosing recommendation for palm kernel oil which is not readily available in the US except in manufacturing.  Palm kernel oils content of MCSFA is slightly less than that of coconut oil.  Most of the palm kernel oil in the U.S. has been refined and hydrogenated: which alters the fatty acid profile.  It is not known if hydrogenation alters the anti-microbial effect of the MCSFA in these oils.  It appears that the intake of palm kernel oil would be the same as that for coconut oil.

          These servings of coconut products supply approximately the same amount of the MCSFA found in 4 tablespoonfuls of coconut oil.

Ø       4 tablespoons (54g) coconut oil

Ø       2 ¾ oz (78 g) desiccated coconut or creamed desiccated

Ø       5 ½ oz (154 g) raw coconut or creamed raw coconut

Ø       8 oz (225 cc) coconut milk expressed from raw coconut (this is not the liquid found inside a coconut)



          I would be totally amiss in suggesting that I am sure that these recommendations are the only way to consume SFA.  I hope that new research will provide us better insight into the correct consumption of saturated fatty acids.  Based on the information available I feel that these recommendations are quite close to what the final out come will be.  Remember that the co-consumption of adequate amounts of PUFA, especially omega-3s, with SFA is much more important than the amount of SFA that we consume.

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Fats-9.4: Trans-fats    


          There are two classes of trans-fats: artificial and natural.  Natural trans-fats are found in dairy products, human milk and in the meats of ruminants.  Natural trans-fats are mostly beneficial.  Artificial trans-fats on the other hand are totally harmful.


Avoid Artificial Trans-fats. 

          Most artificial trans-fats are made commercially from linoleic acid.  Their structure makes them very stable in packaged products and in cooking oils.   Once in the body, they cause confusion because they replace both polyunsaturated fatty acids and saturated fats in key locations.  Once in these locations they are unable to perform the functions of the polyunsaturated or saturated fat that they have replaced.       

          Because saturated fats and trans-fats have characteristics that are similar when used in package products many writers of articles assume that they have an equal effect on the body.   This is totally erroneous.  In the body trans-fats react significantly different than the beneficial saturated fats.

          Artificial trans-fats are especially harmful. All you need to do to avoid them is read the label on packaged products for the amount of trans-fats and check the ingredient list for the term partially-hydrogenated.  There are no artificial trans-fats in whole foods, only in packaged foods or in cooking fats.


If you see an amount of trans-fat listed, or see the term partially-hydrogenated in the ingredient list, use an alternate product. 

·        Note: Hydrogenated fats are not the same as partially-hydrogenated fats, so do not confuse the terms.  Hydrogenated (fully hydrogenated) fats are not trans-fats; chemically they are the same as saturated fats.  The main problem using hydrogenated products is that they also contain significant amounts of trans-fat by-products.

·        Note: A manufacturer can have up to a 0.5 gram of trans-fat and list the amount as ‘0-zero’.  If you see the term partially-hydrogenated oil in the ingredient list then there will be trans-fats in the product even if the amount is listed as zero.

          Trans-fats were killing over 100,000 people a year, but these amounts are now dropping. There is no safe level, although a maximum intake level of 2% of total calories has been proposed as the upper safe limit.  This is too high we should be being exposed to 0 grams of trans-fats from commercial products.


Natural Tans-fats

          Natural whole foods do not contain harmful trans-fats, but they do contain different types of trans-fats that may actually be beneficial.  Milk products contain a group of trans-fats collectively called CLA (conjugated linolenic acid).  CLA is not listed on the product label as trans-fats, and it is safe to consume. 

          I am waiting for more research to be done, but I am considering making CLA a nutritional target.  CLA is claimed, but not yet proven, to have the following benefits:

·        May improve muscle to fat ratios.

·        May help control obesity.

·        May reduce cancer growth and formation.

·        May reduce the formation of arachidonic acid hormones by partially blocking the Cox and Lox enzymes.

How much may be needed?

·        Safe levels or RDI for CLA have not been established.

·        Supplements usually contain 750 to 1000 mg of various CLA isomers.  It is believed that doses over 3 grams a day don’t have any additional benefits over lower doses.  Human research is very inconclusive about dosing.

Sources of CLA

·        4 to 5 mg/gram: commercial milk products, cheese, yogurt, and lamb

o       Levels in free range animals is claimed to be up to 5 times higher.

·        2 to 4 mg/gram beef, turkey, and veal

·        Trace amounts: chicken, pork, seeds, peanuts, and olives

·        Free range animal products are claimed to have 5 times higher amounts than those listed.

·        Supplements are synthetic CLA and may or may not be as beneficial as the natural forms.  There are 8 known CLA iso-forms.  Some may be harmful, while others may be beneficial.  Dairy products contain the CLA iso-forms that research is showing to be the most beneficial.




You made it!!!!!! 

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