Glossary of Medical Terms

Essential Fatty Acids (Omega-3 and Omega-6 Fatty Acids)

Essential fatty acid (EFA), also known as polyunsaturated fat, is not made by the body, so it is essential to get EFA from food. EFA supports and regulates important body functions in the cardiovascular, reproductive, immune, and nervous systems.

The two types of EFA are:

  • Omega-3 fatty acids, which are found in foods from plants like soybean oil, canola oil, walnuts, and flaxseed. They are also found in fatty fish and shellfish as eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). Salmon, anchovies, herring, sardines, Pacific oysters, trout, Atlantic mackerel, and Pacific mackerel are high in EPA and DHA and lower in mercury.

  • Omega-6 fatty acids, which are found mostly in liquid vegetable oils like soybean oil, corn oil, and safflower oil. 

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