Health on a Plate

…because what you put on your plate matters

Food for thought: a focus on good fats

salmon imageAt this stage in the new year lots of us are still focussed on losing weight and changing their diet and lifestyle. But remember that your body needs fat – the right kinds of fat of course. As well as providing the body with energy, fats are needed to transport nutrients – such as the fat-soluble vitamins (A, D, E and K), insulate nerve cells and build hormones, prostaglandins and cellular membranes.

You can read more in my article published in Nutrition I-Mag, winter 2012 here: Good fats – focus on foods.

The essential fatty acid debate

Until the late 1990s, most experts believed that only two fatty acids were needed in the diet: linoleic acid (LA) – omega-6 and alpha-linoleic acid ( ALA) – omega-3. The body would make all of the other necessary fatty acids directly from LA and ALA in the diet.

However a review in 2000 argued that the term essential fatty acid (or EFA) should no longer be used. Instead what scientists – and nutritionists – should focus on is the ability of a person to convert the parent fatty acid into the long-chain polyunsaturated one: from linoleic acid (omoega-6) to gamma-linolenic acid and from alpha-linoleic acid (omega-3) to eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). The capacity of individuals to convert through this pathway is reduced in disease states and in infancy.

This re-classification has largely been accepted in the science community. Furthermore, a 2003 study of vegetarians (Davis and Kris-Etherton) demonstrated that the conversion of ALA to EPA and DHA is poor even under normal circumstances.


References: Cunnane SC (2000). The conditional nature of the dietary need for polyunsaturates: a proposal to reclassify ‘essential fatty acids’ as ‘conditionally-indispensable’ or ‘conditionally-dispensable’ fatty acids. Br J Nutr. 84(6):803-12.

Davis BC, Kris-Etherton PM (2003). Achieving optimal essential fatty acid status in vegetarians: current knowledge and practical implications. Am J Clin Nutr. 78(3 Suppl):640S-646S.



This entry was posted on February 2, 2013 by in Uncategorized.


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