When the two EFA (essential fatty acids) were discovered in 1923 they were classified as Vitamin F although subsequently they have been better classified as fats rather than vitamins. In 1934 three scientific papers were published by eminent biochemists using the name vitamin F for these unsaturated fatty acids, however in 1937 the American Medical Association completely discredited vitamin F, claiming that there was “no evidence” to justify essential fatty acids. Some 70 years later a considerable amount of scientific study has gone into confirming the importance of essential fatty acids for brain function.
Essential fatty acids are required by both humans and animals because the body requires them for good health but cannot produce them for itself. There are many different types of essential fatty acids with almost unpronounceable names such as alpha-linolenic acid – [ALA] [omega 3] and linoleic acid – [LA] [omega 6].
Omega 3 fatty acids [ALA, EPA & DHA] are the most important of the Vitamin F group since they suppress inflammation which is the cause of so many of the degenerative diseases that plaque us.
It is thought that insufficient EFA or the wrong balance of EFA could be a factor in a number of illnesses such as osteoporosis, heart disease, depression and also dementia.
Good natural sources of EFA are fish, shellfish, flaxseed, sunflower seeds, leafy vegetables and walnuts. For a long time Cod Liver Oil was considered an adequate source of vitamin F however when compared to Salmon, Mackerel, Herring, Anchovy and Sardines it comes up very short as Cod is predominately a low fat fish. For comparison purposes a 4 ounce piece of Salmon contains 3,600 mgs of Omega -3 fatty acids whilst the same amount of Cod contains only 300 mgs. Of more recent years Krill has become a preferred source of Omega-3 however some of the claims made by the producers have been questioned by leading nutritional scientists. Many at the claims are based on the alleged ability of Krill oil to prevent and even reverse heart disease. The scientific evidence indicates that it is DHA that has an effect on heart disease and that this is present in all fish oil and not just in Krill. Furthermore it apparently costs more to distil DHA from Krill oil than it does from other fish oils.
Irrespective of the source any supplement should provide a predominance of EPA over DHA in the ratio of 3：1. In addition they should always be taken with food as this provides the greatest bioavailability.
There are a couple of groups that do need to beware about the consumption of Vitamin F supplements. Pregnant women should avoid plant oils such as Borage and Primrose as they have been found to on occasion induce labor. Also, Omega-6 should not be used by those who suffer epilepsy as it has been shown to induce seizures.
Finally as a curious piece of trivia it has been discovered that there is an animal that contains an alarming high level of Vitamin F in its body and it is this high level that is believed to enable it to live for so long in harsh climates. The animal can survive without food for up to a year, grow to an incredible size and live a very long life and it is the Rattlesnake! One has been recorded as being 21 feet 6 inches long, with a body of 18 inches round and an estimated age of 114 years old. So even if you live in a desert miles from any sea fish you can still get on ample supply of Vitamin F.