Poly Unsaturated Fatty Acid Structures

DHA structure, EPA structure

Poly unsaturated fatty acid structures are deceptively similar. Small molecular changes made in every cell of the body translate into large shifts in physiology. Omega 3 fatty acids DHA and EPA are found in fish oil and provide most of the benefits ascribed to it. Alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) is found in numerous places, but primarily in flaxseed oil supplements. A small percentage of this omega-3 fatty acid is partially converted to EPA and then DHA in the body. Gamma-linolenic acid (GLA) is found in borage oil and evening primrose oil. This omega 6 fatty acid has natural anti-inflammatory properties.

How to tell is a fatty acid is omega 3 or omega 6?
Look at the structures and count lines backwards from the methyl ("CH3") group. If you count to three and get to a double line, it's an omega-3. If you get to 6, it's an omega-6. The double line represents a double bond, or point of unsaturation. In the diagram here, DHA, EPA, and ALA are all omega 3s. GLA has an omega 6 structure.

Small differences in fatty acid structures translate to big shifts in activity

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