Somebody please explain EFAs to me in simple terms


New Member
I just finished reading up for a while on fish/flax oils and EFAs, and I am very confused.

I am wanting to start taking in EFAs and not sure where to start.

I have heard that all that is need is fish oil. Is that true? What all do I need to know before I start buying/taking certain EFAs.

What are the pros/cons of taking in EFAs?

Please take it nice and slow, so that I may be able to understand all this... ;D
This is what I know to be true:
Flax is a good source of your Omega's (EFAs) 3 and 6. Fish oil is much of the same, however, it has what Flax doesnt, EPA's and DHA's. Flax can be broken down into these compounds, but the process is inhibited by caffine (cant rememebr where I heard that). Fish Oil already has EPA and DHA bioavialable, so there is no need to worry about caffine consumption. Unfortunitaly, fish oil is hard on the liver (hard to break down) and your much better off eating the easier digested fish, as a solid food, to get the oils (tuna, salmon).\

Just about any store will carry fish oil or flax oil caps. I would suggest buying the oil. Its cheaper. You can put it in your protien shakes - it's tastless. If your not suppliminting with protien, you need to be.

Extra Virgin Olive Oil is also a nice substitue when flax or fish oil isnt avialable. I too carries the omegas (EFA's).

Wal-nuts, Alvacodo (SP), Olives, Fish all contain the EFA's you speak of. You can eat these as well to recieve the benifits of EFA's.

If there is anything else I think of later, I'll post again. That's all for now.
[b said:
Quote[/b] (MrNasty @ Sep. 13 2004,5:20)]Extra Virgin Olive Oil is also a nice substitue when flax or fish oil isnt avialable. I too carries the omegas (EFA's).
No actually it doesn't. But it is a monounsaturated which is a good thing :D

Essential Fatty Acids in OILS
Content of Omega-3 and Omega-6 Essential Fatty Acids in Oils
Approximate EFA content in grams per 100 grams

Omega-3s (100g) (g) Omega-6s (100g) (g)
Flax / Linseed oil 58 Safflower oil 74
Flax / Linseeds 15-30 Grapeseed oil 68
Walnut oil 11.5 Sunflower oil 63
Canola / Rapeseed oil 7 Walnut oil 58
Soybean oil 7 Soybean oil 51
Wheatgerm oil 5 Corn oil 50

Essential Fatty Acids in NUTS
Content of Omega-3 and Omega-6 Essential Fatty Acids in Nuts
Approximate EFA content in grams per 100 grams

Omega-3s (100g) (g) Omega-6s (100g) (g)
Walnuts 5.5 Walnuts 28
Hazelnuts trace Hazelnuts 4
Cashews trace Cashews 8
Almonds trace Almonds 10
Brazils trace Brazils 23

Essential Fatty Acids in SEEDS
Content of Omega-3 and Omega-6 Essential Fatty Acids in Seeds
Approximate EFA content in grams per 100 grams

Omega-3s (100g) (g) Omega-6s (100g) (g)
Flax / Linseeds 15-25 Flax / Linseeds 6
Pumpkin seeds 7-10 Pumpkin seeds 20
Sunflower seeds trace Sunflower seeds 30
Sesame seeds trace Sesame seeds 25
Pine nuts 1 Pine nuts 25
Essential Fatty Acids in Fish
Content of Omega-3 Essential Fatty Acid in Fish
Approximate Omega-3 (EPA/DHA) content
in grams per 100 grams of fresh uncooked fish

Fish (100g) Omega-3 (g)
Mackerel 2.2
Spiny Dogfish 2.0
Herrings 1.7
Sardines 1.7
Pilchards 1.7
Tuna (bluefin) 1.6
Trout (lake) 1.6
Sturgeon (Atlantic) 1.5
Salmon 1.4
Anchovies 1.4
Sprats 1.3
Bluefish 1.2
Mullet 1.1
Halibut 0.9
Bass (striped) 0.8
Trout (rainbow) 0.6
Trout (Arctic char) 0.6
Mullet (striped) 0.6
Oysters 0.6
Carp 0.6
Squid (short-finned) 0.6
Tuna (skipjack) 0.5
Mussels (blue) 0.5
Periwinkles 0.5
Shark 0.5
Pollock 0.5
Hake (Pacific) 0.4
Sea Bass 0.4
Shrimps 0.4
Crab 0.4
Perch 0.4
Clams 0.3
Cod (Atlantic) 0.3
Cod (Pacific) 0.2
Plaice 0.2
Scallops 0.2
Flounder 0.2
Lobster 0.2
Abalone 0.1
Haddock 0.1
Pike 0.1
How many grams are supposed to be taken daily?

What are the pros of this when added to working out?

What are omega 3/6's?

I also have heard about regular and pharmaceutical grade fish oils?
From the FAQ
[b said:
Quote[/b] ]CLA and EFAs

Try to get 2-6 grams per day of EPA+DHA. The FDA has only approved 2 grams per day because of the ability of omega-3s to thin the blood (reduce clotting). However, if you are not at risk of bleeding abnormalities, anywhere up to 6 grams per day is beneficial. The burping WILL stop if you take them consistantly. Takes about a week for the burps to stop.

Keep in mind that omega-3s will be preferentially oxidized (burned for fuel), so a lot of what you supplement on a low carb diet will be burned as energy before it can be stored in fat cells where it does its magic. Whenever possible, take your fish oils after a meal or after carbs. The carb load to the liver will decrease the oxidation of the fatty acids and allow more to pass through into the blood for storage. This is good when it comes to omega-3s and CLA.

CLA can't exactly "replace" EPA as far as nutritional needs go. But it does do the same job on fat cells (through PPARs)

It's going to take about 6-10 grams per day of CLA to notice any effect. If you use CLA while bulking it may help nutrient partitioning. CLA and Omega-3s should be taken "all" the time. They aren't supplements that you take every now and then. It has to be constant so that they can have time to change the environment within the body. This only happens as CLA are incorporated into fat cells. Unfortunately, the CLA is preferentially oxidized as it enters the liver, so you have to take enough to not only let the liver burn some, but also have enough to get into circulation and be deposited into fat cells.

As with EFAs I suggest you take CLA with carbs (or after a meal). The rise in insulin may prevent the immediate oxidation of the CLA, and enhance the delivery of it to subcutaneous fat cells.

The delivery of "fat" to fat cells may not seem like a good idea at first, but CLA and Omega-3s activate PPARs once in fat cells. This is good, and is what leads to the change in body composition over time.

Regular use of CLA will change your "tendency" to gain and lose fat. It will basically make your fat cells act as if you had a genetic predisposition to leanness. The mechanism is pretty interesting.

Here is a bit of info on CLA.

CLA is a naturally occurring fatty acid found primarily in beef and dairy fats. The reason that it is found primarily in beef and dairy products is because CLA is formed from linoleic acid by bacteria in the gut of cows (or herbavors). The cows then absorb the CLA and it becomes incorporated into lipids in the cows, including milk lipids.

How does it work?

CLA increases fat oxidation.
(West, D. B., J. P. DeLany, P. M. Camet, F. Blohm, A. A. Truett, and J. A. Scimeca. Effects of conjugated linoleic acid on body fat and energy metabolism in the mouse. Am. J. Physiol. 275 (Regulatory Integrative Comp. Physiol. 44): R667-R672, 1998)

CLA has been shown to increase certain enzymes responsible for fatty acid beta-oxidation. This means that the body’s ability to burn fat goes up significantly with CLA supplementation.

Inhibition of triglyceride uptake into fat cells.
(Park, Y., K. J. Albright, W. Liu, J. M. Storkson, M. E. Cook, and M. W. Pariza. Effect of conjugated linoleic acid on body composition in mice. Lipids 32: 853-858, 1997)

The best way to get fat is to send the fat you eat straight to the fat cell to be stored. This is generally what happens when we eat fat, however CLA supplementation has been shown to decrease the enzyme necessary for fat cells to take up fat and triglycerides from the blood. This fat is then more apt to be taken up by muscle tissue where it can be burned for fuel. In fact, CLA also increases the muscles ability to burn fat as fuel as mentioned previously.

CLA increases insulin sensitivity
(Houseknecht, K. L., J. P. Vanden Heuvel, S. Y. Moya-Camarena, C. P. Portocarrero, L. W. Peck, K. P. Nickel, and M. A. Belury. Dietary conjugated linoleic acid normalizes impaired glucose tolerance in the Zucker diabetic fatty fa/fa rat. Biochem. Biophys. Res. Commun. 244: 678-682, 1998)

The reason CLA has been labeled a “partitioning agent” is because of its ability to shift the flow of nutrients away from fat tissue and towards muscle tissue. So you are starving the fat and feeding your muscle, the end result being an increase or maintenance of muscle and a reduction in fat.

CLA acts to reduce body fat stores by chronically increasing metabolic rate.
(West DB, Blohm FY, Truett AA, DeLany JP. Conjugated linoleic acid persistently increases total energy expenditure in AKR/J mice without increasing uncoupling protein gene expression. J Nutr. 2000 Oct;130(10):2471-7.)

Treatment with CLA chronically increases basal metabolic rate. Over time this elevation leads to significant reductions in fat mass. The exact mechanism by which CLA raises energy expenditure has yet to be elucidated but could act through PPARs.

Here is a list of the Essential Fatty Acids

Linoleic acid (LA) (omega-6)
Arachidonic acid (AA) (omega-6)
Gamma linolenic acid (GLA) (omega-6)
Dihomogamma linolenic acid (DGLA) (omega-6)
Alpha linolenic acid (LNA) (omega-3)
Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) (omega-3)
Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) (omega-3)

Essential fatty acids are polyunsaturated, so the 3 and the 6 mean that the first double bond is either 3 or 6 carbons in from the end.
So what is the easiest/cheapest/best way to consume CLAs?

Also, what about this...
I also have heard about regular and pharmaceutical grade fish oils?

People say not to buy wal-mart, and other off the shelf fish oils, because they are not any good.
[b said:
Quote[/b] (aabrechko @ Sep. 14 2004,8:13)]dkm1987,
Is there a website where you got this info from?
Which part of the info?
[b said:
Quote[/b] (s7e @ Sep. 13 2004,9:48)]So what is the easiest/cheapest/best way to consume CLAs?
Also, what about this...
I also have heard about regular and pharmaceutical grade fish oils?
People say not to buy wal-mart, and other off the shelf fish oils, because they are not any good.
1. CLA is not cheap, period.
2. I am not sure about that part I do buy mine from Walmart.
Here's some basic information on EFAs from Supplement Watch:

[b said:
Quote[/b] ]The term “essential fatty acids” refers to two fatty acids (linoleic acid and linolenic acid) which our bodies cannot synthesize and thus, must be consumed in the diet (vitamins and minerals are also termed “essential” because we cannot make them and therefore must consume them). These essential fatty acids are needed for the production of compounds known as eicosanoids – which help regulate blood-clotting, blood pressure, heart rate, immune response and a wide variety of other biological processes.

Linoleic acid is a polyunsaturated fatty acid with 18 carbon atoms and two double bonds. Linoleic acid is considered an “omega-6” or “n-6” fatty acid because the first of its double bonds occurs at the sixth carbon from the omega end. It is also referred to as C18:2n6 (meaning 18 carbons, 2 double bonds, first double bond at n-6 position). It is found in vegetable and nut oils such as sunflower, safflower, corn, soy and peanut oil. Most Americans get adequate levels of these omega-6 oils in their diets due to a high consumption of vegetable oil based margarine, salad dressings and mayonnaise.

Linolenic acid, or alpha-linolenic acid, is also an 18-carbon polyunsaturated fatty acid, but it is classified as an “omega-3” or “n-3” fatty acid because its first double bond (of three) is at the third carbon from the omega end. It is also known as C18:3n3 (meaning 18 carbons, 3 double bonds, first double bond at the n-3 position). Good dietary sources are flaxseed oil (51% linolenic acid), soy oil (7%), walnuts (7%) and canola oil (9%) as well as margarine derived from canola oil. For example, a tablespoon of canola oil or canola oil margarine provides about 1 gram of linolenic acid.

[*] Promotes brain development
[*] Treatment for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)
[*] Supports cardiovascular health
[*] Reduces blood clotting
[*] Anti-inflammatory (rheumatoid arthritis, ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s disease)
[*] Reduces blood pressure / Dilates blood vessels[/list]
Theory If you think back to the type of diet humans evolved to eat (cave-man diet), it provided a much more balanced mix of n-3 and n-6 fatty acids. Over the last century, modern diets have come to rely heavily on fats derived from vegetable oils (n-6) – bringing the ratio of n-6 to n-3 fatty acids from the cave-man’s ratio of 1:1 to the modern-day range of 20-30:1 – yikes! The unbalanced intake of high n-6 fatty acids and low n-3 fatty acids sets the stage for increases in blood viscosity (and tendency of blood to clot), vasoconstriction (and elevated blood pressure) and inflammatory processes (involved in everything from heart health to pain levels).

Fatty acids of the n-3 variety, however, have opposing biological effects to the n-6 fatty acids – meaning that a higher intake of n-3 oils can deliver anti-inflammatory, anti-thrombotic and vasodilatory effects that can lead to benefits in terms of heart disease, hypertension, diabetes, and a wide variety of inflammatory conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis and ulcerative colitis.

In the body, linoleic acid (n-6) is metabolized in the body to arachidonic acid – a precursor to specific “bad” eicosanoids which can promote vasoconstriction and elevated blood pressure. Linolenic acid (n-3), however, is metabolized in the body to EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid). EPA serves as the precursor to prostaglandin E3, which may have vasodilatory properties on blood vessels – effects which can counteract the vasoconstriction caused by n-6 fatty acids. DHA has been associated with optimal brain development in infants.

Scientific Support Recent studies have shown consumption of linolenic acid and other n-3 fatty acids to offer protection against heart disease and heart attacks. This effect is thought to be mediated through the synthesis of eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). Fish oils contains large amounts of both EPA and DHA and the majority of studies in this area have used various concentrations of fish oil supplements to demonstrate the health benefits of these essential fatty acids. For example, one gram of menhaden oil (a common source) provides about 300 mg of these fatty acids. EPA is known to induce an antithrombotic (clot-preventing) effect through its inhibition of platelet cyclooxygenase (which converts arachidonic acid to thromboxane A2) and the “less-sticky” platelets that result. Fish oil, and its high content of EPA and DHA, may also protect against heart disease through an anti-inflammatory effect (via reduced cytokine production and/or increased nitric oxide production in the endothelium)

Consumption of broiled or baked fish, 2 or more times per week, is associated with a 40% reduction in risk of rheumatoid arthritis. In one study, 8 weeks of omega-3 supplementation (9-10 grams per day) resulted in significant improvements in joint pain and stiffness among arthritis sufferers.

Flaxseed, a rich plant source of omega-3 fatty acids, has been shown to lower both systolic and diastolic blood pressure (1-2 tablespoons daily). Epidemiological studies have shown that subjects with high intakes of linolenic acid (n-3) have been shown to have a 50% reduced risk of heart disease - which may be partly due to beneficial effects on blood pressure, cholesterol levels, blood clotting and heart rhythm. Indeed, omega-3 fatty acids are known to reduce thromboxane activity, which could explain the benefits of omega-3’s in reducing platelet aggregation (blood clotting) and blood vessel constriction.

There is also some evidence that omega-3 fatty acids from fish oil and flaxseed may help improve insulin sensitivity, modulate lipid metabolism and combat both mild depression and Attention Deficit and Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). Although the data is far from clear, it is known that omega-3 fatty acids are concentrated in the brain and that children and adults suffering from depression and/or ADHD typically show sub-optimal blood levels of essential fatty acids. In addition, population studies suggest that a high consumption of fish (rich in omega-3’s) may be related to a lower risk of depression, including postpartum depression. Mothers pass large amounts of essential fatty acids to their babies during the last 3 months of fetal brain development and via breast milk – so much that new mothers have only half the normal blood levels of omega-3 fatty acids and nursing mothers may have even lower levels.

A recent expert scientific advisory board at the National Institutes of Health highlighted the importance of a balanced intake of n-6 and n-3 fatty acids to reduce the adverse effects of elevated arachidonic acid (a metabolic product of n-6 metabolism). The committee recommended a reduction in the intake of n-6 fatty acids (linoleic acid) and an increase in n-3 (linolenic acid, DHA, EPA) intake. Adequate intake recommendations were established for the first time for the support of cardiovascular health in adults and brain development in infants (see dosage recommendations below).

Safety No serious adverse side effects should be expected from regular consumption of essential fatty acid supplements – whether from fish oil or other common oil supplements (see below). Due to the tendency of n-3 fatty acids to reduce platelet aggregation (“thin” the blood), increase bleeding times can occur in some individuals.

Value The most common supplemental sources of essential fatty acids are fish oil – a good source of the omega-3 fatty acids. Other oils, such as flaxseed, borage seed and evening primrose are rich sources of essential fatty acids – but typically do not provide the high levels of concentrated EPA/DHA found in many fish oil supplements. The highest quality fish oil supplements should provide 18%-30% EPA and 12%-20% DHA. The higher the EPA/DHA content, the better (but also more expensive).

Dosage The best dietary sources of omega-3 fatty acids are fish such as trout, tuna, salmon, mackerel, herring, and sardines, which all contain about 1-2 grams of n-3 oils per 3-4 ounce serving. A minimum of 4-5 grams of linoleic acid (but no more than 6-7 grams) and 2-3 grams of linolenic acid are recommended per day. Supplements of linoleic acid (n-6) are typically not needed, whereas linolenic acid (n-3) supplements (4-10g/d) and/or concentrated EPA/DHA supplements (400-1000mg/d) are recommended to support cardiovascular health. Total DHA/EPA intake should approach about 1 gram per day – evenly split between the two.
Fish oil v. Flaxseed oil

One article, citing this study, says:

[b said:
Quote[/b] ]…the omega-3 fatty acids found in flax are not the same as those in fish.

Fish oil contains two omega-3 fatty acids known as eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). Flaxseed oil, on the other hand, is rich in alpha-linolenic acid, which is the &quot;parent&quot; fatty acid to DHA and EPA. Although similar in structure, the benefits of alpha-linolenic acid, EPA, and DHA are not the same.

Your body converts alpha-linolenic acid rapidly into EPA, and more slowly into DHA. Roughly 11 grams of alpha-linolenic acid is needed to produce one gram of DHA and EPA. However, other foods in your diet can easily put the brakes on this conversion process.

So, rather than relying on your body to convert ALA to EPA and DHA (as with flaxseed oil), presumably it is better to get EPA and DHA directly (with fish oil).


As dkm1987's excerpt from the FAQs says

[b said:
Quote[/b] ]Try to get 2-6 grams per day of EPA+DHA. The FDA has only approved 2 grams per day because of the ability of omega-3s to thin the blood (reduce clotting). However, if you are not at risk of bleeding abnormalities, anywhere up to 6 grams per day is beneficial.

Be aware that you might see higher doses elsewhere (e.g., one well-known carb cycling diet recommends <span style='color:CC0000'>10–20</span> grams a day—&quot;the more the better&quot;) and, while Barry Sears (of The Zone Diet and The Omega Rx Zone) recommends 2.5 grams daily in this ABC News transcript from May 2002, he also says

[b said:
Quote[/b] ]If you want optimal cardiovascular health, you will need about 5 grams per day. If you want to treat inflammatory pain, you'll need nearly 10 grams per day.

And to treat an existing neurological condition (such as Multiple Sclerosis, Attention Deficit Disorder, Depression and Dementia) you'll need approximately 15 grams per day.

Relative to prolonged bleeding, the published data indicates that up to 16 grams per day of Omega-3 fatty acids will have the same effect on bleeding as taking 1 aspirin per day.

Many clinical studies have found no significant increase in bleeding times at a constant level of 10 grams of Omega-3 fats per day.

I'm not recommending more than 2–6 grams daily. I'm just pointing out that you might see other places recommending (or mentioning) higher doses.
[b said:
Quote[/b] (dkm1987 @ Sep. 16 2004,8:55)]The Guru of Fat
He likes to think of himself as the guru of fat, but he isnt

George and Mildred Burr, now they are Guru's of fat, especially EFA's

and to re-inforce something mentioned in one of the articles listed above
Fishoils are NOT a significant source of EFA's
becuase the main fatty acids within fish oil are not the EFAs, they are downstream products of EFA's. There is some EFAs in fish oils (2% or there abouts p/w) but not many people would be taking enough fishoil to get a significant intake from this.
I understood that perhaps the primary reason bodybuilders are interested in EFAs (or at least EPA and DHA) is that they can reduce fat gain while bulking?

An excerpt from this site:

[b said:
Quote[/b] ]
One of the primary benefits of fish oil supplementation is improvement in body composition, as dietary fatty acid composition plays an important role in the accumulation of excessive body fat. A reduction in fat mass is to be expected, as well as fat being less likely to be distributed in the abdominal area. ....

Many studies in rats have found a diet high in fish oil to significantly reduce fat accumulation [7, 8, 10-12]. This reduction is dose-dependant [8]. Also, fish oil causes less relative distribution of fat in the abominal area in rats gaining weight compared to saturated fat [13] and increases lipid mobilization in visceral adipose tissue [14]. Although this effect has not been confirmed in humans, fish oil has definite potential in the treatment of obesity [6], and the evidence for changes in gene expression and enzyme activity is quite strong, as well as the health benefits of fish oil supplementation which in many cases are interrelated with the antiobesity effects. Fish oil may be especially useful during a period of weight gain due to the fat redistribution, and also due to the fact that one study noted that changes in liver membrane fatty acids due to fish oil were not significant during a period of energy restriction and concluded that &quot;the influence of dietary fat type on cellular structure and perhaps function becomes increasingly important with progressively positive energy balance&quot; [15].

However, Aaron writes:

[b said:
Quote[/b] ]
The amount of fish oils that you take in depends.

For normal increases in health (heart disease risk) 1g is enough (or fatty fish 1-2x weekly)
For the role in nutrient partitioning, a more pharmacuetical level of intake is required. Between 6gm and 5% total calories from fat are required to make a difference. and how do you know if its working? you probably wont :)
So 6g is a good doseage to go from.

By &quot;nutrient partitioning&quot; he means less fat gain while bulking. My problem is taking 6 grams. 6 fish oil capsules a day? Can someone suggest a more economical alternative? I do eat fish, but how much fish are we talking about? (Eg., how much tuna would you eat to get 6 grams of fish oil? )

I note that in Bryan's Eating for Size article, he has his 200 pound example lifter consume 4 fish oil capsules and 2 tablespoons of flax oil. Is that enough to get the nutrient partitioning effect?

[b said:
Quote[/b] (kbaum @ Sep. 24 2004,12:41)]I do eat fish, but how much fish are we talking about? (Eg., how much tuna would you eat to get 6 grams of fish oil? )
Read my post above about fourth or fifth from the top. It shows how much is 100 gram servings.