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Are you curious about the buzz surrounding essential fatty acids? Are you wondering if you should add them to your diet? For some seniors, adding essential fatty acids to the diet may provide health benefits.

What are Essential Fatty Acids?

Essential fatty acids are unsaturated fats that are also called omega-3 fatty acids. They are essential to many body functions. Essential fatty acids have an anti-inflammatory effect in the body. So adequate intake of essential fatty acids may decrease inflammation in the body.

What are the Benefits of Essential Fatty Acids?

— Protection against heart disease

— Lower triglyceride levels

— Keep heart rhythm steady

— Slow down arteriosclerosis

— Decrease risk of stroke

— Increase bone density

— Prevent memory loss

— Decrease risk of dementia

— Slow the decline in people with Alzheimer’s dementia

How Much Do I Need?

No RDA exists for essential fatty acid intake. However, the Institute of Medicine states the Adequate Intake (AI) amount for adults over 19 years old (including seniors) is 1600 mg of omega-3 fatty acids for males and 1100 mg for females. The International Society for the Study of Fatty Acids and Lipids recommends 220 mg per day of both DHA and EPA for adults.

What Foods Contain Essential Fatty Acids?

Two important essential fatty acids are DHA and EPA. Both are found in fatty fish such as salmon, mackerel, herring, albacore tuna, lake trout, and sardines. The essential fatty acids are actually found in the algae, not the fish itself. The fish or their prey eat the algae, and therefore, contain EPA and DHA.

Plant foods such as flax seed, flax seed oil, olive oil, some leafy greens, and walnuts contain the essential acid ALA. ALA must be broken down to DHA and is not as effective as DHA and EPA.

Can I Take Supplements?

Talk with your doctor before taking fish oil supplements. People with bleeding disorders or who take blood thinners should not take fish oil supplements. If you decide to take fish oil supplements, Medline Reports recommend keeping it under 3000 mg per day.

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