The essentials of essential fatty acids

J Diet Suppl. 2009;6(2):143-61. doi: 10.1080/19390210902861841.


All fats, including saturated fatty acids, have important roles in the body. However, the most important fats are those that the body cannot make and thus must come from the food we eat. These essential fatty acids (EFAs) are based on linoleic acid (omega-6 group) and alpha-linolenic acid (omega-3 group). We need both groups of essential fatty acids to survive. For various reasons EFA deficiency is common in the general population, as is a disproportionate intake of omega-6 fatty acids over omega-3 fatty acids. As such, it is important to eat the right foods to make sure that you're taking in enough and the right kinds of the essential fatty acids. However, there is much more to the story. Studies have shown that increasing the intake of certain essential fatty acids, either alone or in combination with other fats and compounds, can increase health, help in treating certain diseases, and even improve body composition, mental and physical performance.

MeSH terms

  • Diet*
  • Dietary Fats* / administration & dosage
  • Fatty Acids, Essential* / deficiency
  • Fatty Acids, Omega-3* / administration & dosage
  • Fatty Acids, Omega-6* / administration & dosage
  • Humans
  • Nutritional Requirements*


  • Dietary Fats
  • Fatty Acids, Essential
  • Fatty Acids, Omega-3
  • Fatty Acids, Omega-6