What are Fatty Acids?

Sherry Holetzky

Fatty acids are acids produced when fats are broken down. They are considered “good fats.” These acids are not highly soluble in water, and they can be used for energy by most types of cells. They may be monounsaturated, polyunsaturated, or saturated. They are organic, or in other words, they contain both carbon and hydrogen molecules.

Flax seeds are rich in fatty acids.
Flax seeds are rich in fatty acids.

Fatty acids are found in oils and other fats that make up different foods. They are an important part of a healthy diet, because the body needs them for several purposes. They help move oxygen through the bloodstream to all parts of the body. They aid cell membrane development, strength, and function, and they are necessary for strong organs and tissue.

Salmon is naturally rich in omega-3 fatty acids.
Salmon is naturally rich in omega-3 fatty acids.

Fatty acids can also help keep skin healthy, help prevent early aging, and may promote weight loss by helping the body process cholesterol. More importantly, they help rid the arteries of cholesterol build up. Another purpose of these acids is to assist the adrenal and thyroid glands, which may also help regulate weight.

Fatty acids may assist the thyroid gland in trying to regulate weight.
Fatty acids may assist the thyroid gland in trying to regulate weight.

There are different types of fatty acids. You have most likely heard of certain types, such as Omega-3. Omega-3 is considered an “essential” fatty acid, as is Omega-6. There is one other, Omega-9, but this type can be readily produced by the body, while the other two types cannot.

Fatty acids may assist the adrenal glands to help regulate weight.
Fatty acids may assist the adrenal glands to help regulate weight.

Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids are found in fish and certain plants. Since they cannot be produced in the body, they must be ingested in the form of foods or natural supplements. However, it is important to discuss all supplements with your healthcare provider before you begin taking them.

Essential fatty acids are required to retain healthy lipid levels in the blood. They are also necessary for proper clotting and regulated blood pressure. Another important function is controlling inflammation in cases of infection or injury. They can also help the immune system to react properly.

Fatty acids help rid the arteries of cholesterol build-up.
Fatty acids help rid the arteries of cholesterol build-up.

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Discussion Comments


Blueberry muffin mix has fatty acids in it.


Can someone help me find out how would fatty acids help with using energy and producing energy?


@ Alchemy- there is a good type of trans-fat. Conjugated Linoleic Acid (CLA) is the fat found in lamb, beef, full fat dairy products, and supplement store shelves.

Scientists are studying CLA’s link to weight loss and osteoporosis prevention. This is why doctors say milk is part of a healthy diet.

Scientists have not found a direct link to the fat loss attributes of CLA and weight loss, rather CLA helps to prevent fat build up on the midsection.

CLA also helps to maintain lean muscle mass, which in turn allows the body to burn fat faster. This is the reason athletes and body builder’s supplement with CLA.


Trans-isomer fatty acids are the bad fatty acids found in trans-fats. These fatty acids increase LDL cholesterol, lower HDL cholesterol, and increase the risk of coronary heart disease.

These fatty acids are found in some monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, and offer no benefit to the human body. This is the reason for all of the bans on trans-fats that states are passing. Trans-fats are a large contributor to the obesity epidemic that is sweeping the country. Trans-fats also increase the risk for diseases like diabetes, cancer, Alzheimer's, liver failure, and female infertility.

A key ingredient to look for when trying to reduce trans-fatty acids is partially hydrogenated oils. These fats are manufactured to be hybrids of unsaturated and saturated fats. In the hydrogenation process, the oils create large amounts of trans-fats.

All fats can be bad, but trans-fatty acids are the worst. They are the only fat that both raises LDL and lowers HDL. This is why butter is healthier than margarine.


I love "fatty" fish, like salmon and tuna, that provide Omega 3s. But for people who don't eat meat, you can also get fatty acids from vegetable oils, nuts, whole grains, and garlic, as well as many other fresh fruits and vegetables.

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