Essential fatty acid

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Essential fatty acids, or EFAs, are fatty acids that humans and other animals must ingest because the body requires them for good health but cannot manufacture them.[citation needed] The term "essential fatty acid" refers to fatty acids required for biological processes, and not those that act only as fuel.

Only two EFAs are known, alpha-linolenic acid (an omega-3 fatty acid) and linoleic acid (an omega-6 fatty acid).[1][2][3] Other fatty acids that are only "conditionally essential" include gamma-linolenic acid (an omega-6 fatty acid), lauric acid (a saturated fatty acid), and palmitoleic acid (a monounsaturated fatty acid).[4]

When the two EFAs were first discovered in 1923, they were designated Vitamin F. In 1930, work by Burr, Burr and Miller on rats showed that the two EFAs are better classified with the fats than with the vitamins.[5]

Contents

Functions

In the body, essential fatty acids serve multiple functions. In each of these, the balance between dietary ω-3 and ω-6 strongly affects function.

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