Natural Sources of Vitamin F: Flaxseed oil; other seed and nut oils such as pumpkin seed oil, canola oil, soya oil, walnut oil, fish like salmon, trout, mackerel, sardines and tuna and meats from wild or range fed animals. Sources of specific vitamin F components (not balanced sources of EFAs on their own) include evening primrose oil, grape seed oil, sesame seeds and oil, sunflower seeds and oil and avocados.
Standardized oil extracts sold in capsules or bulk form; certified organic culinary oils (expeller-pressed in the absence of light, heat and oxygen).
– Antioxidant (indirect)
– Autoimmune Diseases
– Behavioral Disorders
– Brain Disorders
– Cardiovascular Disease
– Cellular Regeneration
– Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
– EFA Deficiency
– Eyesight Disorders
– Fibrocystic Breast Disease
– Heart Health Maintenance
– Hormone Imbalances
– Infantile Atopic Eczema
– Joint Pain
– Lyme’s Disease
– Menopausal Problems
– Mood Swings
– Muscle Cramps/Pain
– Nervous Disorders
– Neurological Disorders
– Pregnancy-related Disorders
– Postpartum Depression
– Postviral Fatigue Syndrome
– Reducing LDL Cholesterol
– Reproductive Organ Health
– Retinal Disorders
– Rheumatoid Arthritis
– Senility/Aging Problems
– Skin Disorders
– Sleep Disorders
– Vascular Disorders
– Vascular Tone
Vitamin F, essential fatty acids, includes two types of essential fats that must be found in the diet because they are essential for health and can’t be produced by the body. The two essential fatty acids are linoleic acid (LA) in the omega-6 family of fats and alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) in the omega-3 family. The human body converts LA and ALA into long-chain fatty acids including arachidonic acid (AA), gamma linolenic acid (GLA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). Vitamin F is vital for normal blood clotting, normal growth, membrane fluidity of all cells, proper immune system functioning and also protects the body against inflammation. Every cell of the body has a phospholipid membrane made up of vitamin F fatty acids: 60% EFA’s for most cells and 80% EFA’s for brain and nerve cells. The human retina is fully 60% omega-3’s. Vitamin F deficiencies are related to brain and retinal disorders, especially in infants, vascular disorders and hormonal imbalances. Linoleic acid is readily found in most plant foods containing oils, particularly in raw nuts, seeds, legumes, grape seed oil, corn, sunflower, canola and flaxseed oils. However, linolenic acid is found concentrated only in a select few seeds and oils including flaxseed, canola, soy and walnut. Dietary requirements for vitamin F (particularly for omega-3s), can also be met from long-chain derivatives (AA, GLA and DHA) found concentrated in fatty fish oils, wild and range-fed animal products. Within the human body, the conversion steps of essential fats (LA and ALA) into their long-chain derivatives can be slowed down by many lifestyle factors, including a diet rich in saturated fats and trans-fatty acids, stress, viral infections, too much alcohol or cholesterol and various illnesses. Flaxseed oil is an excellent source of vitamin F as it contains approximately 57% alpha linolenic acid and 15% linoleic acid.
Vitamin F Deficiency:
A severe deficiency of vitamin F fatty acids may cause damage to the kidneys, heart and liver. Behavioral disturbances are also noted in cases of vitamin F deficiency, and the immune system becomes less efficient with resultant slow healing and increased susceptibility to infections. Blood pressure and cholesterol levels may be higher when vitamin F levels are low and blood is more likely to form clots. Edema has also been reported with fatty acids in short supply. A deficiency of vitamin F also causes excessive hair loss and eczema. Tear ducts are prone to dry up when essential fatty acids are lacking in the diet. Vitamin F is also important in the manufacture of sex and adrenal hormones. Arthritis sufferers often obtain relief from supplementing with these fatty acids. Vitamin F also aids in the transmission of nerve impulses and a deficiency may lead to learning disabilities and a problem with recalling information. Vitamin F fatty acids additionally play an important role in the regulation of cholesterol levels and are precursors of prostaglandins, hormone like compounds producing various metabolic effects in tissues. Studies have shown that increased levels of omega-3s in the diet from fatty fish increases the flexibility of red blood cells for passing through capillaries and blood vessels within only three days and reduces and/or normalizes blood platelet stickiness. For the skin, adequate daily intake of vitamin F brings suppleness and a youthful appearance and hair becomes more shiny and healthy.
The most common omega-3 (n-3) fatty acid obtained from food is called alpha-linolenic acid (ALA, 18:3 n-3); the most common omega-6 (n-6) is called linoleic acid (LA, 18:2 n-6). These are polyunsaturated fatty acids with an 18 carbon chain length with their first double bond at either the third carbon (n-3) or the sixth carbon (n-6) from the methyl group end. These EFA’s must be obtained from foods because the body can not produce them on it’s own and they are required as precursors for many biologically essential molecules.
To prevent deficiency the required intake of essential fatty acids lies within the range of 1 to 2 percent of total calories although some researchers suggest 10 – 20 percent.
Deficiencies in omega-6 fatty acids are rare and including any natural oil in the diet at the level of one to two tablespoons daily will provide adequate levels of these important fatty acids. The recommended daily dosage for omega-3 EFAs ranges between 5 – 7 grams daily. To obtain this amount from flaxseed oil, it is recommended to take at least one tablespoon of flaxseed oil daily with food. Flaxseed oil (57% ALA) can be used as a component of salad dressings, or it can be incorporated into other foods such as non-hydrogenated margarines or butters, or it can be mixed in with fruit smoothies or other shaken drinks. Flaxseed oil should never be used for frying foods, but may be used safely in baked foods. Other omega-3-rich sources of vitamin F include pumpkinseed oil (10% ALA), canola oil (10% ALA), walnut oil (5% ALA), butternuts (8%), wheat germ oil (7%), Persian English walnuts (7%), green soybeans (3%), soya oil (3-6%), roasted soybean kernels (1.5%), Beechnuts (1.7%), oat germ (1.4%) and purslane (1%). Fatty fish included in the diet can also be used as a source of omega-3s. Omega-3 EFA levels of fish include Atlantic mackerel (2.3% otherwise expressed as 2.3g per 100g (3.5 ounces) or 2,299mg per 100 grams), Pacific herring (1.7%), Atlantic herring (1.6%), Pacific and jack mackerel (1.4%), Chinook or king salmon (1.4%), bluefin tuna (1.2%), sockeye salmon (1.2%), pink salmon (1%), coho salmon (0.8%). Omega-3 EFAs from canned fish include anchovies canned in olive oil and drained prior to eating (2%), pickled Atlantic herring (1.4%), pink salmon including liquid and bones (1.6%), Pacific salmon in tomato sauce (1.6%), sockeye salmon (1.1%), Atlantic sardines in soybean oil (drained with bones) (1%), albacore white tuna in water and drained (0.7%), light tuna in water and drained (0.1%). Some of this information is from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and can be obtained from the U.S. Nutrient Database on the worldwide web. For more detailed information of foods with EFA levels, see the books Food Your Miracle Medicine and Stop Aging Now by Jean Carper (1993, 1995).
Omega-3 EFA supplements (in capsule form) and diets high in fatty fish (rich in omega-3’s) may reduce the required dosages of blood thinners (Warfarin, Coumadin). Consult with a physician prior to commencing Vitamin F therapy in these cases.
Omega-3 EFA supplements (in capsule form) are contraindicated for persons on blood thinners without first consulting with your physician. Stroke victims and persons at risk of having a stroke should also first consult with their physician prior to using omega-3 EFA supplements.
When taken as directed, properly formulated vitamin F supplements have no negative side effects. Vitamin F includes two EFAs that must be taken in a balanced proportion. Excessive omega-3 EFAs in the diet from flaxseed oil or other sources, in the absence of adequate levels of omega-6 EFAs, can weaken blood vessels and capillaries and increase the tendency and frequency of nose bleeds and other bleeding problems. Stroke victims and persons at risk of having a stroke should also first consult with their physicians prior to using omega-3 EFA supplements. Conversely, too much omega-6 fatty acids in the diet in the absence of adequate omega-3’s can cause blood platelet stickiness and is associated with pro-inflammatory prostaglandins and many different common diseases. These problems can be avoided simply by using EFA balanced flaxseed oil blends containing sunflower and other oils.
Belch et al. 1988: Effects of altering dietary essential fatty acids on requirements for non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs in patients with rhematoid arthritis: a double blind placebo controlled study. Ann Rheum Dis 47(2): 96-104.
Carper, J. 1993. Food Your Miracle Medicine: How Food Can Prevent and Cure Over 100 Symptoms and Problems. Based on more than 10,000 scientific studies. Published by HarperCollins Publ., Inc., 10 East 53rd Street, NY.
Erasmus, U. 1993: Fats that Heal, Fats that Kill. Published by Alive Books, Burnaby, B.C., Canada. Pp. 1-456.
Siguel 1996. Diagnosis of Essential Fatty Acid (EFA) Deficiency: Using Flax to Prevent Heart Disease. Proc. 56th Flax Institute of the USA, J.F. Carter, ed. North Dakota State Univ., Fargo, ND pp123-133.
Stordy, J. 1995: Benefits of docosahexaenoic acid supplementation to dark adaptation in dyslexics. Lancet 346: 8971, 385.
Essential Fatty Acids for Humans – A Discussion on Breast Milk, Infant Formulas, Flax Oil, Fish Oils and other Dietary Oils.
By Suzanne Diamond, M.Sc. (Botany)