Exclusive Online Expanded Version—The Essential in Fats: A Global Perspective for Healthy Skin Cells

Contact Author Alexandra J. Zani March 2014 issue of Skin Inc. magazine

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Essential fatty acids

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Essential fatty acids (EFAs) are biological compounds that are required for the health of all cells. EFAs must be initially obtained from food sources, because the human body cannot manufacture them.1 Their importance is significant due to their contributions to the biological activities of every cell membrane; the skin barrier; brain activity and cognitive function; the central nervous system; mediation of inflammatory responses; and overall body health.

EFA deficiencies (EFAD) are linked to numerous illnesses and conditions, including arthritis, diabetes, behavioral disorders, cardiovascular risk factors, cornification disorders, poor skin barrier function, psoriasis and dermatitis.2 A primary focus for the skin care professional involves understanding the principal concepts encompassing the optimum function of biological cells and their relationship to successful outcomes of skin correction. Of paramount importance is the consideration of the histological nuances of the cell, especially within the epidermal/dermal regions and the functional relationship of essential fatty acids to cell membranes.

During the past two decades, further advancements with more precise laboratory instrumentation avail scientists the opportunity to provide a more detailed interpretation of how the skin functions, including cell-to-cell signaling, barrier role and function, mitochondrial activity, membrane electrical potential and function, immune response and suppression, and wound-healing. Included in this amalgam are factors that may affect this normal mode of functioning—including genetic, lifestyle, nutrition and environment. The good news is that this current information unlocks a new passageway for the skin care professional to explore the “whys” of a skin condition. Moreover, it elucidates to the stressors that lead to the dysfunction of biological components within the skin layers. This knowledge is paramount to shifting into newer paradigms that contribute to optimum skin correction and maintenance.

Visiting ancestry

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The 2004 scientific exploration of a 1.95 million year-old site in northwestern Kenya unearthed clues that the diet of earlier human inhabitants consisted of aquatic animals such as fish, turtles and alligators, as well as other meat sources. Humans lived along freshwater lakes and marshy areas in eastern Africa that safely allowed them to increase dietary protein and fats from smaller animal species without having to rely on hunting dangerous, large animals. They also foraged local uncultivated plants, fruits and nuts, and drank water to quench their thirst. The regions where early populations resided were fundamental to their growth, health and propagation. Inhabitants in the East African Rift Valley and at the southern cape of Africa also had access to ample seafood, a rich source of omega-3 (n-3) and omega-6 (n-6) EFAs. It was discovered they developed a greater brain size and higher intellect.

Exploring the life of earlier humans elucidates scientific clues regarding the importance of dietary intake and its relevance for growth and keeping free of disease. Fats are substantial dietary molecules necessary for storing energy and adenosine triphosphate (ATP), as well as for building and regulating structural mechanisms in all cells. Fat requirements for each population group varied regionally and were reflected by the amount of energy levels necessary for survival. Moreover, their digestive systems adapted to foods available in their local region and synthesized nutrients from what they ate. For example, Inuit Eskimos living in the far north consumed diets high in meat, including fish, marine mammals and local wildlife, with very little vegetables and fiber. All life requires a certain amount of light each day to regulate the circadian rhythm, which helps trigger biological activities for all living beings. A prime example to exemplify human’s capability for adaptation was remarkably displayed during days of polar winter darkness. The Inuit people received a large amount of stored sunlight from the chemical bonds they stowed within their bodies obtained from their diet of fatty fish.

Population groups who lived in more temperate or tropical regions had access to more vegetables and lean meats from wild animals, until the era of farming and domestication of animals. Unlike the Inuits of the far north who required large stores of fats including unsaturated fatty acids, people living in tropical areas with extra sun exposure consumed more stable monosaturated fats such as olive oil and other local fat sources. Their diet also included fresh vegetables and fruit that are lower in fats and rich in minerals, vitamins and fiber.

It is the opinion of many scientists to suggest that human bodies are genetically programmed to mimic the diets of our earlier ancestors who consumed local meat, fish, plants and fruit before the era of agriculture and with the introduction of grain and dairy products. Throughout thousands of years of human evolution a common theme emerged showing that no matter where a population group resided, each required core nutrients to build the internal biological mechanisms for growth, resistance to disease and survival. Following the industrial period, beginning in the 1760s, people’s lives changed dramatically. Each era has brought about changes in the way food is grown, cultivated and distributed. During the past 100 years, especially in the Western world, there have been dramatic dietary changes with the introduction of hydrogenated fats, modified and highly processed and artificial foods, with a reduction of local produce, meat and fish.

A lipid conundrum

Fast forward to the 20th century. The once consumed natural, minimally processed fats and oils altered dramatically with the 1911 introduction of a hydrogenated vegetable oil that was transformed into a solidified shortening product named Crisco. The process of hydrogenation stabilized natural vegetable oils into a solid mass that extended shelf life and was touted as a healthier alternative to lard and butter. The hydrogenation process forced hydrogen gas into vegetable oil at a high pressure. Healthy EFAs were chemically converted into trans fats and made into a solid. Hydrogenated oils have a higher melting point and became attractive to the fast food industry. Since the 1970s, a growing tendency was to view most dietary fats as an unhealthy, artery-clogging component that promoted heart disease and high cholesterol. It became a mantra amongst the public, the marketing campaigns and even with health care professionals—fats became bad. Instead of increasing optimal health, the elimination or reduction of fats from many foods were replaced by sugars and other artificial ingredients to improve texture and flavor. Initial intensions eventually backfired.

The idea that hydrogenated vegetable fats were a healthy alternative to saturated animal fats finally collapsed as studies during the early 1990s uncovered more serous health concerns. As early as the 1970s reports trickled in from European and Canadian researchers who began to connect the dots as they uncovered startling facts that artificial trans fats actually have an adverse effect on serum cholesterol, and could heighten breast and prostate cancer risks, and cause low birth weight and vision impairments in infants. Artificial trans fats are considered a big health concern because they disrupt cellular function and destroy the enzymes required for conversions of both n-3 and n-6 into their elongated forms. Hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated vegetable oils essentially promote excessive production of pro-inflammatory prostaglandins (PGs) and reduce the moderating influence of n-3s.

These startling reports were not very exciting to the manufacturers who had spent millions of dollars in promoting their products. Good intentions imploded with very adverse effects on millions in the Western world, including the rise in obesity due to sedentary lifestyles, poor eating habits and a rise in metabolic disorders.

Essential connections and EFA relationships

There may be a genetic link to skin barrier disorders that begin in the womb. It is through the following in-depth consideration that will expose many answers to why the skin reacts the way it does.

The brain. The evolution of the human brain required considerable consumption of calories and nutrients in order to have increased to its present day size. Moreover, the brain required a substantial amount of fats, especially EFAs, that included an elevated amount of n-3 docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) content imperative for memory and thinking. DHA is also found in the eye retina, as well as in postsynaptic neuronal cell membranes that are imperative for nerve and vision function.

The body breaks down the fat in food into fatty acid molecules to become used as raw materials for the lipid-rich cell membranes. Along with the importance of n-3 DHA, fatty acids, adrenic (docosatetraenoic) acid (which is metabolized from n-6 arachidonic acid and omega-9 (n-9) oleic acid are also directly involved with the myelination of nerves in the brain, and have strong associations with temperament in adolescent attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. Myelin fiber is a protective coating that covers neurons (nerve cells), and is composed of 30% protein and 70% fat.

“No infant or young child dies of malnutrition without there being an ecological situation which involves maternal nutrition.” –Michael A. Crawford, PhD

Mother and child. One can irrefutably appreciate that the dietary intake of a mother is tantamount to the health of her offspring. Epidemiological research confirms that a low level of n-3 and n-6 during fetal, infant and early childhood development affects neural and visual development. Pregnant and nursing mothers convert larger amounts of n-3 alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) in their diet so that it is converted to DHA in order to gift the child with the building blocks required for growth both inside the womb and at the breast immediately after childbirth.

Fifty percent of breast milk calories are from fat in order to allow protein and carbohydrates to be utilized for growth. Furthermore, saturated fatty acids lauric and capric acid integrate into human milk. They play an important role since they are considered antimicrobial fatty acids that protect against viruses, bacteria and protozoa.

A growing child requires substantial amounts of natural fat during their developing years. Infants who receive balanced and adequate levels of good nutrition are able to manufacture a suitable volume of long chained saturated fatty acids for building myelin for the brain. Moreover, fats transport and support the absorption of fat-soluble nutrients such as vitamins A, D, E and K, along with phytochemicals including carotenoids.

Michael A. Crawford, professor, award-winning researcher, author and founder of the Mother and Child Foundation, testified in published studies as early as 1972 that infant formulas lacking the highly unsaturated fatty acids, n-3 eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), n-3 DHA and n-6 arachidonic acid (AA), were not adequate for brain and new born development. DHA appeared to be a key component.

Moreover, his extensive research revealed the significant role that lipids and essential fatty acids play during cellular signaling. These essential nutrients affect membrane lipids and gene expression. Crawford established that maternal nutrition was a causative factor in low birth weight as well as complications during pregnancy and premature birth.

Premature infants and DHA. Babies born prematurely before 33-weeks gestation have insufficient levels of n-3 fatty acid DHA in their brain that can lead to potential impaired mental development. Australian researchers at the University of Adelaide, whose findings were published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, found that by administering high levels of DHA (1000mg/day) to lactating mothers with pre-term infants helped counteract this condition. Moreover, dosages for premature girls and boys differed between the genders. Girls displayed better mental development. Premature boys required higher dosages most likely due to their faster metabolisms.

Clarity and health in older age. The consumption of a variety of natural food nutrients and those including adequate levels of EFAs help maintain suitable levels of n-3 DHA and n-6 AA to ensure that humans reach their later years without the risk of dementia and cognitive decline. The elderly require an increase of polyunsaturated fatty acids (PuFa) and overall balanced nutritional food intake. Skin barriers decline with age including lipid synthesis and the stratum corneum acidification.


Essential exposé on fats

Natural fats (solid) and oils (liquid) are organic compounds that are very important to health and cell function.3 They are made up of molecules called triglycerides. Fatty acids are also called lipids and are found in vegetable oils, meat, fish, eggs, dairy, palm and coconut oils, nuts and seeds.

Essential for life, fats have primary and regulatory roles in the body. They:

  • Are an important energy source;
  • Are a key component for creating strong cell membranes;
  • Serve as fundamental elements of several essential lipids, such as phospholipids and trigycerides;
  • Play a significant role in cell-to-cell signaling; and
  • Combine with proteins and carbohydrates to form active molecules.4

When consumed, fats are emulsified in the stomach by bile. They continue to travel into the duodenum canal to be broken down further by pancreatic enzymes. They absorb through the walls of the gastrointestinal tract in the duodenal region where they are reassembled into triglycerides and transported via the lymphatic system into the blood that carries it to the liver.5 They are either directed to make other lipidic structures, such as cell membranes, or are stored for energy and future use.

Fats are classified as:

  • Saturated fatty acids(SAFA)—straight chains with no double bonds;
  • Unsaturated essential n-3 fatty acids—contain three double bonds;
  • Polyunsaturated (PUFA) essential n-6 fatty acids—contain two or more double bonds; and Monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFA) n-9—contain one double bond.

Fats are either solid (saturated—no double bonds) or liquid (unsaturated—one or more double bonds). All naturally occurring oils and fats are actually mixtures of different amounts of various fatty acids. For example: Beef fat is 54% unsaturated, lard is 60% unsaturated and chicken fat is about 70% unsaturated.5 This results in them being less than half saturated.

Fatty acid chains

Fatty acids are organic molecules consisting predominantly in a straight chain arrangement containing single bonds of carbon and hydrogen atoms (hydrocarbons). Described as “holding hands,” carbon and hydrogen atoms link together by sharing electrons. Its chain is inflexible noting a straight, solid backbone of carbon atoms with a saturation of hydrogen atoms. The more saturated the molecule, the higher the melting point. Fatty acid structures have a methyl group that is hydrophobic (repels water) at one end joined by ester bonds and then capped with a hydrophilic (attracts water) carboxylic acid (COOH) group at the other end.

Building a fatty acid molecule. Fatty acid chains can contain any number of carbon atoms classified as short-chained, as found in butter, versus long-chained, as found in fish oils. The uniqueness of a fatty acid molecule is that it has an innate feature that allows it to modify itself into a new molecular structure for a particular biological purpose. An example would be its ability to build or reinforce a cell membrane, regulate a cellular event such an immune response, or be stored as energy for future use.

Fatty acid chains vary in size:

  • Short chains include less than 6 carbon atoms;
  • Medium chains include 6–12 carbon atoms; and
  • Long chained fatty acids contain 24 or more carbon atoms.

Saturated and non-saturated fatty acids

A saturated fatty acid (SAFA) can transform itself into becoming unsaturated by removing two of its hydrogen atoms and replacing them with one or more bonds either in a cis or trans arrangement. This capability is of great significance when assembling n-3 and n-6. The process of placing double bonds into an omega chain requires specific catalytic enzymes that humans do not make and require that they come from food. N-3 and n-6 are considered essential fatty acids due to their unique role within the cells. Trans structures are rare in nature. Rather, they are manufactured artificially as partially hydrogenated or hydrogenated unsaturated acids. They do not, however, respond in the body the same way as nature-derived unsaturated fatty acids.

Saturated fatty acids—saturated with hydrogen atoms 4–28 carbon atoms long:

  • Butyric acid—a bioactive fatty acid component of milk fat found in butter, yogurt and cheese. Lactic acid in dairy products produce free fatty acids including butyric acid and linoleic acid by the lipolysis (breakdown of milk fats). Probiotic activity creates more free fatty acids, which in turn creates more beneficial bacteria in the gut.
  • Caproic acid—a fatty acid found in animal fats and oils;
  • Capryllic acid—small amounts are found in coconut oil, palm kernel oil and the milk of various mammals. Due to its short-chained length, capryllic acid is found to be antimicrobial and effective in combating certain lipid-coating bacteria;
  • Hexadecanoic acid—found in palm oil, tallow, butter, cheese, milk and meat. It’s the most common SaFa found in animals, plants and microorganisms;
  • Lauric acid—found in coconut oil, palm kernel oil and breast milk;
  • Myristic acid—found in cows milk;
  • Octadecanoic acid;
  • Palmitic acid (PA);
  • Stearic acid (SFA); and
  • Arachis acid—found in peanut and corn oils, and used in detergents and lubricants.

Cell membranes

All cell membranes are called bilayer membranes and are comprised of special lipid molecules called phospholipids (PLs), cholesterol, glycolipids and glycoproteins, and other extrinsic protein molecules. The presence of EFAs is fundamental to cell function and regulation and must be obtained from exogenous (external) sources. They affect membrane properties that support flexibility, fluidity and permeability, and play a vital role in cell-to-cell signaling. EFAs n-6 and n-3 generate powerful modulatory factors and must be in balanced ratios in order to be affective.

Built of saturated and monosaturated fatty acids, PLs are a main component of the selective bi-polar plasma membrane surrounding the cell. One part of the bi-lipid structure is water-loving (attracts water) and the other is lipid-loving (repels water).


  • Hold membrane proteins in place to accomplish structural, enzymatic and transport functions;
  • Keep the membrane fluid enabling protein molecules to move freely about the surface of the membrane in order carry out important functions such as cell signaling;
  • Store a supply of EFAs required for creating cell-regulating prostaglandins;
  • Serve as a protective mechanism for discouraging fungus, viruses and other foreign interlopers due to the stores of the EFA molecules that attract oxygen (required for metabolic synthesis);
  • Contain cholesterol that fine tunes membrane fluidity during the changes in food and fat intake. Cholesterol modulates with the phospholipid molecules; and
  • Contain vitamin E, carotene and glutathione that protect them from oxidation.

Welcome to the House of Omegas

Each omega family resides at two separate addresses—n-3 and n-6. The parent of n-3 is alpha-linolenic acid and the parent of n-6 is linoleic acid. Each family member has a different name with specific responsibilities. There is a boundless interactive synergy between both families that play immense roles in cell function, immune response, and cell-to-cell communication.

For a greater understanding of these life-giving EFA mechanisms, you are invited to explore many of the citations at the end of this article. A goal for the skin care professional is to realize that there are variable means within the skin that can affect its biological function. The presence of both n-3 and n-6 is essential for proper synthesis within all PL-rich cell membranes. EFAs also ensure the transport of membrane bound enzymes.

A word about eicosanoids (prostaglandins)

N-3 and n-6 are precursors of fast-acting, short-lived hormone-like regulatory agents (metabolites) called eicosanoids (Greek eikosi = 20). Eicosanoid is a collective term for fatty acid derivatives formed from elongated n-3 and n-6. Also called prostaglandins (PGs), they are a family of potent mulit-actioned biological chemicals that reside in the lipids of cell membranes. There are three families of PGs: Series I and II formed in n-6, and Series III PGs formed by n-3. Named prostacyclins, prostaglandins, thromboxanes and leukotrienes, they are stored in cell membranes and synthesized when required. They can be activated through certain triggers—cytokines, growth factors and trauma. For example, they help reduce the production of cytokine messenger chemicals leading to excessive inflammation, and inhibit the activation of monocytes (white blood cells—part of the innate immune system). Eicosanoids help to maintain physiological equilibrium and homeostasis in the body.

Eicosatetraenoic acid:

  • Dietary precursor to eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and DHA;
  • Intermediate between stearidonic acid and EPA;
  • A mediator in cell-to-cell communication. Cells release EPA from their membranes to communicate and affect the behavior of other cells; and
  • Precursor to the Series III PGs and other eicosanoids (found in reen leafy vegetables, nuts, flax (linseed), canola, soybean oils, hemp seed, kiwi seed oil and camelina oil).

EFAs in inflammation

Inflammation is a normal cellular process, because it protects and assists with healing after a physical injury or infection. Chronic inflammation is a result of the body’s inability to repair damaged tissue and leads to prolonged infection. It involves a complex cascade of molecular and cellular signals that can result in pain, swelling, temperature and erythema. It acts as a catalyst for atherosclerosis, a leading cause of cardiovascular disease. Other inflammatory diseases include Crohn’s disease, celiac disease, rheumatoid arthritis, Alzheimer’s, diabetes and more.6

Diet and lifestyle influence numerous inflammatory responses within the body, including increased C-reactive proteins (CRP). In particular, risk factors for inflammation that include metabolic syndrome escalate with lifestyle factors, especially during weight gain that intensifies the amount of adipocytes in the body. CRPs are biomarkers of amplified inflammation and appear to increase with the presence of these risk factors.7

EFAs play a dynamic regulatory role during inflammatory and wound-healing responses. N-3 eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) are precursors to inflammation-regulating messenger chemicals called eicosanoids (prostaglandins) derived from a collection of elongated essential fatty acids.5 Moreover, the body’s immune system can actually manufacture inflammation-reducing compounds called resolvins from the n-3 EPA and DHA, and NPD1—a neuroprotectin—from DHA.8, 9 Exciting research continues to investigate the roles of resolvin in managing inflammation and pain in diseases such as arthritis.

The dermis provides physical and nutritional support to the epidermis. Moreover, EFAs in the dermis mediate the reduction and production of cytokine messenger chemicals that cause excessive inflammation (an immune response) and inhibit the activation of white blood cells. n-3 also protects dermal collagen from becoming damaged from UV-induced photoaging. For example, n-3 helps diminish photoaging through a process known as signal transduction cascades—cell-to-cell communication—that mitigates damage to collagen. Notably, excessive sunlight interferes with and destroys the enzymatic mechanisms that convert long-chain highly unsaturated n-3 and n-6 into their metabolites that present structural and protective resources for the skin. The signs of oxidative stress appear as sunspots, skin anomalies and skin cancer.10

Unraveling EFAs

The years of 1929–30 proved to be exciting times with the discovery of essential fatty acids. It was during a time when the role of fats was looked upon as a calorie source interchangeable with carbohydrates without the realization that they play an innate role throughout the entire body. Compelling studies performed by George and Mildred Burr determined that specific nutrients they named EFAs were compulsory dietary components fundamental for balanced reproduction, growth and healthy skin function. Furthermore, their research confirmed that the absence of dietary unsaturated fatty acids created a deficiency syndrome leading to death. Moreover, the Burrs’ identification of linoleic acid as an essential fatty acid showed that it played a significant role and function within all cell membranes. Their research became a catalyst for many other scientists and nutritionists both in Europe and North America to explore the attributes and health benefits of these distinctive fatty acid molecules. As the years passed into the 1990s and into the 21st century, more precise instrumentation allowed researchers to realize the importance of the interrelationship between both n-3 and n-6 families of EFAs, especially with relevance to the architecture of the skin barrier.

EFA deficiency

Ralph T. Holman, PhD (1917—2012), a graduate student and later research associate of George and Mildred Burr, who discovered that fatty acids were critical to health, at the University of Minnesota, devoted his career researching the molecular structures of essential fatty acids. Furthermore, he established the terminology for EFAs and their metabolites. Holman’s life’s work embraced the behavior of EFAs and the significance of the conversion process for each omega family into their metabolites. He continued to prove that there were serious physiological and biochemical consequences when unsaturated fatty acids were withheld from the diet. Moreover, the importance of the competition between n-3s and n-6s for the same desaturation enzymes became the incentive for realizing that any defects lead to marked skin abnormalities, such as atopic dermatitis, and dry and inflamed skin.11

EFA metabolism for each omega family requires a sequenced conversion process initiating from the parent omega n-6 linoleic acid and n-3 alpha-linolenic acid. Each metabolic cascade is a result of an enzyme-prompted desaturation process to create and insert double bonds into fatty acid molecular chains. This process results with the elongation of the molecule that, in turn, changes its behavior and function. It is important to realize that both n-6 and n-3 compete for the same conversion pathway—delta-6 and delta 5. When there is an excess of n-6 unsaturated fatty acids, it becomes an inhibitor to the synthesis of the n-3 pathway and can lead to an imbalance.

Earlier studies by University of Minnesota pediatrician, A.E Hensen, MD, theorized that there may be a correlation between eczema and other skin disorders, and the relationship with EFA metabolism.12 For example, when the skin cannot convert n-6 linoleic acid through to the arachidonic acid pathway and its metabolites GLA to DGLA, it is due to two missing desaturation enzymes delta-6 and delta 5. Although there may be adequate linoleic acid in the diet, the actual problem arises with the missing enzymes that inhibit the conversion process from the parent n-6 linoleic. As a consequence, this inability does not promote entry of n-6 metabolites into the cell membrane required for the metabolism of ceramides. Known as a condition of fat malabsorption, impairment for linoleic metabolism can suggest a genetic mutation in the enzyme. The effects include immune response, inflammation, poor barrier function, rapid water loss, atopic dermatitis and eczema.12

An essential balance

Ratios of omegas-3 and-6, and all other life-giving nutrients were genetically established in early humans through their ability to adapt to their geographical location and local food sources. Indeed, the human diet has evolved considerably. The last group of changes transpired during the past 150 years, as to the type of consumed fat as well as decreased levels of vitamins C and E and other nutrients. The practice of hydrogenation and consumption of synthetic and overly processed food, as well as lifestyle habits in the industrialized world have greatly affected this nutritional landscape. These imbalances became a promoter for the pathogenesis of many diseases, such as cardiovascular, cancer, inflammatory and autoimmune diseases, diabetes and depression.12

Balanced ratios between n-6 and n-3 fatty acids result in a more positive effect for reducing the risk for diseases. Numerous health authorities agree that supplementation with omega-3 PUFA is of great benefit to individuals with inflammatory diseases, including maladies of the cardiovascular system, arthritis, Alzheimer’s, diabetes, asthma and periodontitis. In his findings with chronic diseases, Artemis P. Simopoulos, MD, reports that ratio requirements for omega-3 vary depending upon the health of an individual. Therapeutic doses of omega-3 are dependent on a particular disease and should be administered according to the degree and severity of a condition.

Recent studies with an Australian research group suggest that there may be a variation between women and men. Each sex requires n-3 EPA and DHA. Responses may differ, however, due to the hormonal distinctions between male and female, especially in tendencies for platelet aggregation (clumping). The bottom line is that everyone should be consuming ample amounts of omega-3. It is important to note that clients with thrombosis or who consume blood-thinners should consult with their medical practitioner prior to taking omega-3 supplements.13

Essential standards

There is no one-size-fits-all recommendation for dietary requirements for omega-3. However, given the immunomodulatory role of n-3 fatty acids, dietary supplementation may increase their presence in the epidermis and benefit overall health. Required amounts may be individual-specific, dependent upon age and health. Most countries provide guidelines for recommendations of EFA omega-3. Currently, Americans have the lowest intake of omega-3 in any developed country and consume an over-abundance of omega-6. The U.S. National Institutes of Health has recommended guidelines that can vary for male/female/children and individuals afflicted with disease. (Editor’s note: Recommend that clients discuss the addition of EFA supplementation with their physician before starting any program.)

Oral consumption of supplements requires care and should come from reliable sources that produce a pure product free of contaminants, such as lead, mercury, arsenic, cadmium, dioxins and PCBs. Top supplement producers set high standards for manufacturing and normally follow the stringent European Pharmacopoeia Standards, as well as standards set forth by the Council for Responsible Nutrition and the Global Organization for EPA and DHA Omega-3. International guidelines indicate the following.14

  • 500 mg EPA + DHA to avoid deficiency
  • 1 g EPA + DHA for proactive support
  • 2–4 grams EPA + DHA for high-intensity support

Improve EFA composition

It is easy to appreciate the role of all lipids, especially EFAs. It does take some studying to understand the implications of how skin disorders result from imbalances in the EFA ratios, as well as poor health. There is a close correlation with the breakdown of the skin barrier that causes water loss and poor pH acid mantle balance. Fatty acid composition of the skin can be significantly improved through nutrition and topical application of skin-mimetic ingredients rich in linoleic acid, linseed oil, choline, ceramides, phosphatidylcholine and more. It could take several weeks for skin barrier correction, so patience is recommended. In-spa modalities such as microcurrent and LED are highly beneficial to the correction process, by gently stimulating the epidermis. Excessive “wounding” of the skin through thermolysis or chemical peels is not recommended as the first choice for correction, especially when the skin is already compromised.


  1. lpi.oregonstate.edu/infocenter/othernuts/omega3fa/#metabolism
  2. ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Omega3FattyAcidsandHealth-HealthProfessional
  3. www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/fats-full-story
  4. PT Pugliese Advanced Professional Skin Care—Medical Edition, The Topical Agent, LLC (2005)
  5. MG Enig Know Your Fats: The Complete Primer for Understanding the Nutrition of Fats, Oils, and Cholesterol, Bethesda Press, Bethesda, MD (2012)
  6. www.nutraingredients-usa.com/content/view/print/617472
  7. lpi.oregonstate.edu/infocenter/inflammation.html
  8. www.vitalchoice.com/shop/pc/articlesView.asp?id=1968
  9. AM Bianchini J Aliberti, et al., Sterochemical assignment, anti-inflammatory properties, and receptor for the omega-3 lipid mediator resolvin E1 J Exp Med 201 5 713–722 (Mar 7, 2005)
  10. U Erasmus, Fats that Heal, Fats that Kill Alive Books, Summertown, TN (1993)
  11. RT Holman, The Slow Discovery of the Importance of w3 Essential Fatty Acids in Human Health J Nutr 128 2 4275–4335 (1998)
  12. DF Horrobin, Essential fatty acid metabolism and its modification in atopic eczema A J Clin Nutr 71(suppl) 367S–372S (2000)
  13. www.vitalchoice.com/shop/pc/articlesView.asp?id=2022
  14. www.nordicnaturals.com/en/Doctors_Medical/Omega-3s-Essential_for_Health/536
  15. (All websites accessed Dec 27, 2013)

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