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  EFA (Essential Fatty Acid) Type 3 Requirement  
 
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Signs, symptoms and indicators | Conditions that suggest it | Contributing risk factors | Other conditions that may be present | It can lead to... | Recommendations

 

Please refer to the discussion of this topic in the Treatments section. In that section, essential fatty acids are discussed in general. Your need for the Omega-3 family of essential fatty acids is noted here, and should be taken into consideration as you review the information there.
 

 
 

Signs, symptoms & indicators of EFA (Essential Fatty Acid) Type 3 Requirement:
 
 
Symptoms - Mind - Emotional  Impatient/hostile disposition
 Ethyl-eicosapentaenoic acid reduced aggression and severity of depressive symptoms, compared to placebo, in a well designed study of 30 women diagnosed with borderline personality disorder. The dose used was 1gm per day for 2 months. [Am J Psychiatry 2003;160(1): pp.167-9]

Symptoms - Mind - General

  Trouble concentrating
 Significant changes in the way food is produced and manufactured have not only reduced the amounts of essential fats, vitamins and minerals consumed, but have also disturbed the balance of nutrients in the foods eaten. The proliferation of industrialised farming has introduced pesticides and altered the body fat composition of animals due to the diets they are now fed. As a result, the population's intake of omega-3 fatty acids has decreased whilst the consumption of omega-6 fatty acids has increased. According to the research, this unequal intake combined with a lack of vitamins and minerals is associated with depression, concentration and memory problems. [Bipolar News Jan. 2006]

Symptoms - Nails

  Brittle fingernails

Symptoms - Nervous

  Numb/tingling/burning extremities
 
 

Conditions that suggest EFA (Essential Fatty Acid) Type 3 Requirement:
 
 
Addictions  Alcohol-related Problems
 Polyunsaturated omega-3 fatty acid deficiency may contribute to depressive symptoms in alcoholism, multiple sclerosis and postpartum depression.

Autoimmune

  Sjogren's Syndrome
 A study found that people with Sjogren's Syndrome, which is characterized by dry eyes, had the lowest levels of essential fatty acids. [Prostaglandins Leukot Essent Fatty Acids. 1998 Oct;59(4): pp.239-45]

  Multiple Sclerosis / Risk
 Polyunsaturated omega-3 fatty acid deficiency may contribute to depressive symptoms in alcoholism, multiple sclerosis and postpartum depression.

It is interesting to note that the incidence of MS is quite low in Japan, where consumption of marine foods, seeds, and fruit oil is quite high. These foods contain abundant polyunsaturated fatty acids, including the omega-3 oils (alpha-linolenic, eicosapentaenoic, and docosahexanoic acids). Deficiencies of the omega-3 oils are thought to interfere with lipid elongation and permanently impair formation of normal myelin.

Circulation

  Increased Risk of Stroke
 Consuming cold water fish (and probably omega-3 fatty acids) reduced the incidence of stroke in women by 28 percent. This study demonstrated a reduction in clotting type strokes, without an increase in hemorrhagic strokes.

  Atherosclerosis
 While there has been much emphasis on low fat diets, there are some intriguing studies that show that a low fat diet may actually increase LDLs and that it may be more important to alter the fats in the diet, decreasing saturated fats and trans fatty acids, and replacing them with poly- and mono-unsaturated fats. Hydrogenated oils are at least, if not more, atherogenic than saturated fats.

Hormones

  Low Progesterone or Estrogen Dominance
 Flax seeds and flax seed oil (when specifically prepared) contain high amounts of lignins. Lignins help to maintain a healthy balance between the various estrogens. By binding to estrogen receptor sites, the stronger (less healthy) form of estrogen is blocked, with the effect that there is less cell stimulation and it is more readily removed from the body. There is a specific product called Brevail that is designed to reduce the consequences of low progesterone or elevated estrogens. Such a product may not be necessary if you are already getting your lignins from flax.

Immunity

  Immune System Imbalance (TH2 Dominance)

Infections

  Chronic / Hidden Infection

Lab Values

  Elevated Triglycerides
 Omega-3 fatty acids can have a profound effect on lowering triglyceride levels.

Mental

  Poor Memory
 Significant changes in the way food is produced and manufactured have not only reduced the amounts of essential fats, vitamins and minerals consumed, but have also disturbed the balance of nutrients in the foods eaten. The proliferation of industrialised farming has introduced pesticides and altered the body fat composition of animals due to the diets they are now fed. As a result, the population's intake of omega-3 fatty acids has decreased whilst the consumption of omega-6 fatty acids has increased. According to the research, this unequal intake combined with a lack of vitamins and minerals is associated with depression, concentration and memory problems. [Bipolar News Jan. 2006]

  Panic Attacks
 In one study, 3 out of 4 patients with panic attacks or a history of agoraphobia for 10 or more years improved within 3 months after taking flaxseed oil.

Metabolic

  Anorexia / Starvation Tendency
 Animal studies suggest that supplementation with omega- 3 fatty acids would increase appetite in patients with anorexia nervosa. [Ann N Y Acad Sci 587: pp.332- 8, 1990]


Counter-indicators:
  Pyroluria
 Omega 3 fatty acids are potentially harmful supplements in someone with pyroluria. Omega 3s can worsen mental symptoms in bipolar or schizophrenic patients, if they have a pyrrole disorder.

Normally the desaturase enzymes which metabolize EFAs have a higher affinity for the n3 (Omega3) series. It has been proposed that in schizophrenia mutant desaturases are present which prefer the n6 series. This change would account for the low levels of linoleic acid, dihomogammalinolenic acid and 1 series prostaglandins which have been reported in schizophrenia. It would also explain the high levels of arachidonic and alpha-linolenic acids and the recently described therapeutic response to alpha-linolenic acid. The abnormal pattern in n6 series EFAs in schizophrenics can almost exactly be imitated in rats by depriving them of n3 EFAs. This is the nearest experimental equivalent to an inability to metabolize EFAs because of an enzyme defect. Heterozygotes carrying such a mutant gene would have an advantage over either form of homozygote since they would be better able to cope with variations in dietary intake of n3 and n6 EFAs. [Schizophrenia: the role of abnormal essential fatty acid and prostaglandin metabolism. Horrobin DF, Huang YS. Med Hypotheses. 1983 Mar;10(3): pp329-36]

Pyroluric mental patients will usually get worse if given fish oils, DHA, EPA, etc (alpha-linolenic acid metabolites). They thrive on Primrose Oil, a good source of AA and other omega 6s.

Musculo-Skeletal

  Rheumatoid Arthritis
 Aching, swollen joints may just be demanding the right kind of oil. Shifting the body's balance toward omega-3 oils and away from omega-6 oils significantly alleviates symptoms in patients with rheumatoid arthritis, according to a recent study in the Journal of Rheumatology.

Organ Health

  Dry Eye
 The best way to address dry eye is with a solution that will help the body to heal the processes that lead to dry eye. One way to do this is by making sure you are getting enough essential omega-3 fatty acids. It appears that omega-3 helps to enhance the oil and water layers of the tears.

See also the link between Dry Eye and improvement with Fish Oil supplementation.

Risks

  Increased Risk of Coronary Disease / Heart Attack
 Many studies have shown that higher omega-3 fatty acid intake can cut the rate of sudden cardiac death by nearly one-half, in both apparently healthy patients and those who have suffered a previous heart attack.

To better understand this protective effect, Danish researchers examined the dietary patterns and individual fatty acid status of nearly 300 patients with ischemic heart disease, comparing them with specific parameters of cardiac function. They found that the patients who ate more fish had higher levels of omega-3 polyunsaturated fats in their blood cell membranes and in their fat cells. A higher level of two specific fatty acids, docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) - especially within the cell membrane - was associated with higher heart rate variability in the patients. An increased heart rate variability indicates healthier pulse regulation, and appears to significantly reduce the risk of arrhythmia and cardiac death.

  Increased Risk of Hypertension
 One study found that high dose fish oil can produce a small but significant reduction in blood pressure in men with essential hypertension. [NEJM, April 20, 1989;320: pp.1037-1043.]

Skin-Hair-Nails

  Psoriasis

Uro-Genital

  Dysmenorrhea, Painful Menstruation
 In a double-blind placebo-controlled study among a group of girls suffering from dysmenorrhea, it was found that the symptoms could be significantly reduced by dietary supplementation with omega-3 fatty acids. This particular study used fish oil. [ American Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology, April 1996;174(4): pp.1335-1338]

  Urinary Stress/Overactive Bladder
 Flax seed oil at 1 Tablespoon per day is sometimes recommended because it can reduce inflammation contributing to an overactive bladder.
 
 

Risk factors for EFA (Essential Fatty Acid) Type 3 Requirement:
 
 
Autoimmune  Lupus, SLE (Systemic Lupus Erythromatosis) / Risk
 There is a possible defect in the metabolism of essential fatty acids (EFAs) in systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE). In order to verify this possibility, doctors in one study measured the plasma levels of various EFAs and their metabolites in SLE. These results showed that amongst SLE patients the concentrations of Omega-6 and Omega-3 oils or metabolites were low. Even small doses of fish oils (which contain EPA and DHA) have been shown to help.

Symptoms - Food - Intake

  Low Omega-3 oil/no Omega-3 intake
  Not eating cold water fish or low cold water fish consumption
 More salmon for consumption are now raised in captivity than caught in the wild. These fish are fed corn meal, soy and canola oil. When the fish are fed these foods, the concentration of their fats turns far away from the ideal beneficial 3:1 omega-6 to omega-3 ratio and turns closer to the 20:1 found in commercially-raised beef. This means that salmon raised in salt water pens contain substantially less omega-3 oil than wild salmon, and can no longer be considered a good source of omega-3 essential fatty acids unless clearly identified as 'wild caught'. Also, pigments are added to the artificially-raised salmon to ensure a pink color. [Seattle Times, September 02, 2001]

  Vegetable oil consumption

Counter-indicators:
  Eating/little mercury contaminated fish
  High/moderate cold water fish consumption
  Moderate/high Omega-3 oil intake

Symptoms - Mind - Emotional

  History of postpartum depression
 Polyunsaturated omega-3 fatty acid deficiency may contribute to depressive symptoms in alcoholism, multiple sclerosis and postpartum depression.
 
 

EFA (Essential Fatty Acid) Type 3 Requirement suggests the following may be present:
 
 
Nutrients  EFA (Essential Fatty Acid) Requirement
 
 

EFA (Essential Fatty Acid) Type 3 Requirement can lead to:
 
 
Autoimmune  Sjogren's Syndrome
 A study found that people with Sjogren's Syndrome, which is characterized by dry eyes, had the lowest levels of essential fatty acids. [Prostaglandins Leukot Essent Fatty Acids. 1998 Oct;59(4): pp.239-45]

  Multiple Sclerosis / Risk
 Polyunsaturated omega-3 fatty acid deficiency may contribute to depressive symptoms in alcoholism, multiple sclerosis and postpartum depression.

It is interesting to note that the incidence of MS is quite low in Japan, where consumption of marine foods, seeds, and fruit oil is quite high. These foods contain abundant polyunsaturated fatty acids, including the omega-3 oils (alpha-linolenic, eicosapentaenoic, and docosahexanoic acids). Deficiencies of the omega-3 oils are thought to interfere with lipid elongation and permanently impair formation of normal myelin.

Uro-Genital

  Urinary Stress/Overactive Bladder
 Flax seed oil at 1 Tablespoon per day is sometimes recommended because it can reduce inflammation contributing to an overactive bladder.
 
 

Recommendations for EFA (Essential Fatty Acid) Type 3 Requirement:
 
 
Animal-based  Fish Oil / Krill

Lab Tests/Rule-Outs

  Tests, General Diagnostic
 The omega-3 assay can be used as a marker for both heart disease risk and cellular aging. A kit can be ordered and a small sample of blood taken by finger prick. The sample is sent to a lab and the results sent to you. The test is rather expensive, well over $100. Your doctor may also work with you if preferred to do this lab test.

In the USA and EU the average Omega-3 Index is from 4 to 5%. In Japan, the average diet is high in Omega-3 and the average Omega-3 Index is 9.5%. In the USA, sudden cardiac death rates are about 20 times HIGHER than they are in Japan.

If you are an average American with an Omega-3 Index of 4%, and you want to raise your Omega-3 Index to the goal of 8% (+ 4%), you need to take 25 gram per day weeks of Omega-3. Examples of how to achieve this include:
  • 1 gms per day for 25 weeks
  • 2 gms per day for 12.5 weeks
  • 3 gms per day for 8.33 weeks, and so forth.

Nutrient

  Essential Fatty Acids
 
 


KEY
Weak or unproven link
Strong or generally accepted link
Proven definite or direct link
Strongly counter-indicative
Very strongly or absolutely counter-indicative
May do some good
Highly recommended







GLOSSARY

Anorexia Nervosa:  An eating disorder characterized by excess control - a morbid fear of obesity leads the sufferer to try and limit or reduce their weight by excessive dieting, exercising, vomiting, purging and use of diuretics. Sufferers are typically more than 15% below the average weight for their height/sex/age and typically have amenorrhea (if female) or low libido (if male). 1-2% of female teenagers are anorexic.

Arrhythmia:  A condition caused by variation in the regular rhythm of the heartbeat. Arrhythmias may cause serious conditions such as shock and congestive heart failure, or even death.

Cardiac:  Pertaining to the heart, also, pertaining to the stomach area adjacent to the esophagus.

DHA:  Docosahexanoic Acid. A metabolite of the omega-3 fatty acid alpha-linolenic acid.

Dysmenorrhea:  Difficult or painful menstruation.

Enzymes:  Specific protein catalysts produced by the cells that are crucial in chemical reactions and in building up or synthesizing most compounds in the body. Each enzyme performs a specific function without itself being consumed. For example, the digestive enzyme amylase acts on carbohydrates in foods to break them down.

EPA:  Environmental Protection Agency. Also: Eicosapentanoic Acid. A metabolite of the omega-3 fatty acid alpha-linolenic acid.

Essential Fatty Acid:  (EFA): A substance that the human body cannot manufacture and therefore must be supplied in the diet.

Estrogen:  One of the female sex hormones produced by the ovaries.

Fatty Acids:  Chemical chains of carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen atoms that are part of a fat (lipid) and are the major component of triglycerides. Depending on the number and arrangement of these atoms, fatty acids are classified as either saturated, polyunsaturated, or monounsaturated. They are nutritional substances found in nature which include cholesterol, prostaglandins, and stearic, palmitic, linoleic, linolenic, eicosapentanoic (EPA), and decohexanoic acids. Important nutritional lipids include lecithin, choline, gamma-linoleic acid, and inositol.

Flax:  Flax Seed or Flax Oil. Flax oil is nutty-flavored oil that is pressed out of flax seeds and is one of the richest sources of Essential Fatty Acids (especially Omega-3 oil), a vital element for good health. The oil making process removes many of the seed's phytoestrogens which offer several health-related benefits including reducing the risk of cancer and alleviating menopausal symptoms. Many choose to use the whole seed because of its fiber and lignan content. Flaxseed oil is light- and temperature-sensitive and must be stored in the refrigerator.

Gram:  (gm): A metric unit of weight, there being approximately 28 grams in one ounce.

Hydrogenated Fat:  Usually containing trans-fatty acids (or simply "trans" fats), hydrogenated fats show up mostly in margarine, shortening and many prepared and processed foods such as cookies, crackers, cakes, potato chips and other deep-fried foods. The best way to spot hydrogenated fats is to read the ingredient lists on foods and identify those listing hydrogenated or "partially" hydrogenated fats.

Hypertension:  High blood pressure. Hypertension increases the risk of heart attack, stroke, and kidney failure because it adds to the workload of the heart, causing it to enlarge and, over time, to weaken; in addition, it may damage the walls of the arteries.

Ischemia:  Localized tissue anemia due to obstruction of the inflow of arterial blood.

Lipid:  Fat-soluble substances derived from animal or vegetable cells by nonpolar solvents (e.g. ether); the term can include the following types of materials: fatty acids, glycerides, phospholipids, alcohols and waxes.

Metabolism:  The chemical processes of living cells in which energy is produced in order to replace and repair tissues and maintain a healthy body. Responsible for the production of energy, biosynthesis of important substances, and degradation of various compounds.

Metabolite:  Any product (foodstuff, intermediate, waste product) of metabolism.

Mineral:  Plays a vital role in regulating many body functions. They act as catalysts in nerve response, muscle contraction and the metabolism of nutrients in foods. They regulate electrolyte balance and hormonal production, and they strengthen skeletal structures.

Multiple Sclerosis:  Demyelinating disorder of the central nervous system, causing patches of sclerosis (plaques) in the brain and spinal cord, manifested by loss of normal neurological functions, e.g., muscle weakness, loss of vision, and mood alterations.

Myelin:  A substance made of protein and lipid (fat) that protects the nerves, especially in the brain. The myelin sheath is a jacket of insulation around axons to help them conduct their electrical discharges quickly down the axon.

Panic Attack:  A brief, irrational episode of fear that is perceived as so real that an individual may be driven to escape from the place or situation where it occurs. The attack is sudden and increases in severity until it leaves, usually within ten minutes. Panic attack symptoms are numerous and involve both mental and physical signs and symptoms. A panic attack can occur in other anxiety states such as agoraphobia and with certain activities and places. It may occur spontaneously without an apparent cause.

Placebo:  A pharmacologically inactive substance. Often used to compare clinical responses against the effects of pharmacologically active substances in experiments.

Polyunsaturated:  Polyunsaturated fats or oils. Originate from vegetables and are liquid at room temperature. These oils are a good source of the unsaturated fatty acids. They include flaxseed with added vitamin B6 (pyridoxine), sunflower oil, safflower oil, and primrose oil.

Postpartum Depression:  The "baby blues" are a very frequent and completely normal consequence of childbirth, usually wearing off soon afterwards as hormonal and psychological systems get back to normal. Postpartum depression is a less common but severe depression that begins in the weeks following delivery. It impairs the ability of the mother to care for the child and fall in love with it. This makes her feel even more depressed and inadequate thinking that she can not be a good mother. At the extreme, postpartum depression may lead to dangerous delusions (for example, thinking the baby is in some way deformed or cursed) or hallucinations (that may command violent acts). This can occasionally result in a tragic episode of suicide and/or infanticide.

Prostaglandin:  Any of a class of physiologically active substances present in many tissues, with effects such as vasodilation, vasoconstriction, stimulation of the smooth muscles of the bronchus or intestine, uterine stimulation; also involved in pain, inflammation, fever, allergic diarrhea, and dysmenorrhea. A potent hormone -- similar in structure to an unsaturated fatty acid -- that acts in extremely low concentrations on local target organs; first isolated from the prostate.

Pyroluria:  This condition is caused by an overproduction during hemoglobin synthesis of kryptopyrrole, which chemically combines with vitamin B6 and zinc, resulting in their excretion and a severe deficiency of both of these essential nutrients. Most pyroluric individuals never develop schizophrenia symptoms.

Rheumatoid Arthritis:  A long-term, destructive connective tissue disease that results from the body rejecting its own tissue cells (autoimmune reaction).

Saturated Fat:  A type of fat that is readily converted to LDL cholesterol and is thought to encourage production of arterial disease. Saturated fats tend to be hard at room temperature. Among saturated fats are animal fats, dairy products, and such vegetable oils as coconut and palm oils.

Schizophrenia:  Any of a group of psychotic disorders usually characterized by withdrawal from reality, illogical patterns of thinking, delusions, and hallucinations, and accompanied in varying degrees by other emotional, behavioral, or intellectual disturbances. Schizophrenia is associated with dopamine imbalances in the brain and defects of the frontal lobe and is caused by genetic, other biological, and psychosocial factors.

Stroke:  A sudden loss of brain function caused by a blockage or rupture of a blood vessel that supplies the brain, characterized by loss of muscular control, complete or partial loss of sensation or consciousness, dizziness, slurred speech, or other symptoms that vary with the extent and severity of the damage to the brain. The most common manifestation is some degree of paralysis, but small strokes may occur without symptoms. Usually caused by arteriosclerosis, it often results in brain damage.

Tablespoon:  (Tbsp) Equivalent to 15cc (15ml).

Triglyceride:  The main form of fat found in foods and the human body. Containing three fatty acids and one unit of glycerol, triglycerides are stored in adipose cells in the body, which, when broken down, release fatty acids into the blood. Triglycerides are fat storage molecules and are the major lipid component of the diet.