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Fats and oils are neutral compounds from:

  • trihydric alcohol glycerin
  • plus 3 fatty acid molecules

This combination is also called “triglycerides” due to the three FS molecules. These are produced by special enzymes called Lipases, broken down into glycerol (then goes into the blood) and fatty acids.

Fats and oils have the same chemical structure. However, oils contain shorter fatty acids and, unlike fats, are liquid at room temperature.

Cis and trans fatty acids

Natural fatty acids are usually found in the so-called “cis” form, i.e.H the C chains lie on one side of the double bond (three-dimensional), which means that the membrane structures have greater elasticity. In contrast, the hardened, so-called “trans” fatty acids i.dR. artificially produced (seeu) This means that the fatty acids are two-dimensional and more rigid, no longer liquid and spreadable. However, this reduces the elasticity of the membrane structures.

Trans fatty acids increase the “bad” LDL cholesterol and lower the “good” HDL cholesterol and thus increase the tendency to thrombosis. Their integration into cell walls leads to a rigid cell membrane and thus hinders organ functions.

Typical foods that may contain trans fatty acids are: margarine, mayonnaise, cookies, savory snacks, cakes, chocolate filling, sweets and convenience foods.

“Artificial trans fats are considered a risk factor for cardiovascular diseases. Consuming these substances increases the amount of LDL cholesterol in the blood. They “cannot generally be classified as safe,” said the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

(Source: Die Ärzte-Zeitung online, 11.11.2013)

Saturated and unsaturated fatty acids

The fatty acids are divided into

  • saturated fatty acids
  • monounsaturated fatty acids
  • polyunsaturated fatty acids (e.g. Omega 3, 6, 9 fatty acids)

The “saturation” is defined by the number of C=C double bonds. Saturated fatty acids have no double bonds, monounsaturated fatty acids have one, and polyunsaturated fatty acids have several double bonds.

The best known saturated fatty acids include

  • Lauric acid --> laurel oil, palm oil, animal fats
  • Myristic acid --> coconut oil, palm oil, animal fats
  • Palmitic acid --> palm oil, cottonseed oil, animal and vegetable fats, beeswax
  • Stearic acid --> animal and vegetable fats

For the unsaturated fatty acids, the position of the double bond is important for the biochemical effect. When classifying the position of the first double bond is determined by the methyl end (CH3) and is then named. DH if the first double bond, for example Located in the third position from the methyl end, it is called “Omega 3” fatty acids.

The two main representatives of polyunsaturated fatty acids are the Omega 3- and the Omega 6 fatty acids. Both fatty acids are “essential”, i.e.H must be supplied through food, whereas monosaturated and unsaturated fatty acids are not essential and can be synthesized by the body.

Omega 3 fatty acids 

Alpha-linolenic acid (ALA)
V.a Contained in linseed oil, soybean oil, rapeseed oil and margarine
Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA)
V.a Contained in sea fish (salmon, mackerel, herring, sardines, tuna) and algae
Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA)
V.a contained in sea fish and algae

Omega 6 fatty acids

Linolic acid

Contained in safflower, sunflower, soy, corn and wheat germ oil as well as vegetable and diet margarine
(+) important for skin structure/skin barrier
(-) lowers the “good” cholesterol HDL
(-) can lead to LDL oxidation
Gamma-linolenic acid
will, for example. synthesized in plant leaves from linoleic acid, therefore basically. same effect profile
v.a Contained in hemp oil, evening primrose oil, borage oil
Arachidonic acid
Comes from.a in meat (also in small quantities in milk)
(-) When they are metabolized, breakdown products are formed that have an inflammatory effect.


Unsaturated fatty acids are starting materials for eicosanoids (“tissue hormones”), which have important control tasks: in addition to cell division and platelet aggregation (blood clotting), they are primarilya involved in inflammatory processes.

Important eicosanoids are

  • Prostaglandins
  • Prostacyclins
  • Thromboxane
  • Leukotrienes

 Arachidonic acid (the “bad” Omega 6 fatty acid) is metabolized into

  • Prostaglandins 2 series
  • Thromboxane
  • Leukotriene 4 series,
  • . all of which contribute to acute inflammation!

 The omega 3 fatty acid EPA, on the other hand, is metabolized in

  • Prostaglandins 3 series
  • Leukotriene 5 series
  • E-Resolvin (E1 inhibits the migration of inflammatory cells into the inflammatory tissue and the formation of the messenger substance interleukin 12),
  • .which contribute to the active resolution of the inflammation!

 DHA is also metabolized into inflammation-resolving lipid mediators, esp.a in protectins and D-resolvins: Resolvin D2 causes endothelial cells to produce nitric oxide, which prevents the attachment of leukocytes and thus their migration into the inflamed tissue.

 Despite strong similarities in molecular structure, the biological functions of omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids are very different:

Omega 3 fatty acids…

  • … only supply the “good” eicosanoids and inhibit the formation of “bad” eicosanoids from arachidonic acid
  • … work

promote the intellectual development of the embryo 

Omega 6 fatty acids…

  • ... can have both anti-inflammatory (linoleic and linolenic acid) and pro-inflammatory (arachidonic acid / s.O) and even form carcinogenic eicosanoids, whereas Omega 3 only forms the “good”, anti-inflammatory eicosanoids (+/-)
  • ATTENTION: If larger amounts of “good” Omega 6 fatty acids (linoleic/linolenic acid) are produced, increased amounts of inflammatory arachidonic acid can be formed! Therefore, the ratio of Omega 6 to Omega 3 is important. In addition, the body needs the enzymes delta-6 and delta-5 desaturase to convert plant ALA into EPA/DHA. These two enzymes are also needed to convert the omega 6 fatty acid linoleic acid into other omega 6 fatty acids. By reducing the proportion of omega 6 fatty acids in the diet, the body has more enzymes available to convert ALA into EPA/DHA.
  • In the Stone Age, the ratio of Omega 6 to Omega 3 was 4:1. Through livestock breeding, fattening and agriculture, the ratio has continued to deteriorate to the detriment of omega 3 fatty acids and is now ~20:1 in western societies (the DGE recommends a ratio of 5:1)!  
  • … promote the formation of hemoglobin (hemoglobin is responsible for the transport of oxygen and CO2 in the blood) (+)
  • … have an important function during the division of the cell nucleus (mitosis) by ensuring the stability of the chromosomes in the cell nucleus (+)
  • … are important components of the double membrane of all cells and cell organelles
  • ... accelerate the breakdown of lactate (lactate is a metabolic product of glycolysis; it is created by reducing pyruvate to lactate; excess lactate, for example Legs heavy and muscles tired because they are acidic) (+)

Possible consequences of a lack of fatty acids 

Omega 3 (essential)

  • Rheumatoid inflammation
  • Retarded embryonic development
  • Sensitivity disorders (MS!)
  • Learning and visual impairments
  • Growth disorders
  • Dry skin

Omega 6 (essential)

  • Eczema
  • Hair loss
  • Susceptibility to infection
  • Delayed wound healing
  • Growth disorders

The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) recommends a daily intake of 250 mg EPA and/or DHA daily (as of March 2010).

DHA and EPA should always be taken with the highest fat meal.

In recent years, further studies have shown that an administration of >2 g EPA/DHA per day is necessary for the prevention and treatment of common clinical pictures:

  • 2.2 g for good memory performance and to prevent Alzheimer's disease (Charité study, published in the Journal of Alzheimer Disease 02/2016)
  • 4 g to achieve a high anti-inflammatory effect (Yates, Calder et. al 2014)
  • 2.7 g against rheumatism and for the gradual reduction of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) (Lee YH1, Bae SC, Sng GG., 2012)
  • 3-4 g for non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (Byrne, et. al 2014 / Stephen, et. al 2015)

 There is a very widespread misconception that alpha-linolenic acid ALA can be converted into EPA and DHA by the body and that vegetarians and vegans can only do so by consuming it, for example. of linseed oil could cover their needs for EPA and DHA. ALA can only be converted to a fraction of around 5% into EPA and ~0.5% into DHA. It is therefore not possible to ensure an adequate supply of the biochemically important DHA and EPA fatty acids without consuming fish or algae oil!

Health Claims

The scientifically proven effects of a dietary supplement are referred to as “health claims”. These are as follows for DHA and EPA:

  • EPA and DHA contribute to normal heart function
  • EPA and DHA contribute to maintaining normal blood pressure
  • EPA and DHA contribute to maintaining normal triglyceride concentrations in the blood
  • DHA contributes to maintaining normal brain function
  • DHA contributes to the maintenance of normal vision
  • DHA contributes to the development of vision in young children
  • Maternal intake of docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) during pregnancy and breastfeeding contributes to the normal development of the brain of the fetus and the breastfed child
  • Maternal intake of docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) during pregnancy and breastfeeding contributes to the normal development of the eyes of the fetus and the breastfed child.


Finally, it should be noted that

  • The EPA and DHA content of an Omega 3 food supplement is crucial for its health-promoting effects.
  • The highest values ​​for Omega 3 from high-quality fish oil are 500 mg EPA and 250 mg DHA per 1000 mg fish oil (Omega 3, 50/25 EPA/DHA).
  • Algae oil especially at EPA, for example which is crucial for the inhibition of inflammation, comes to significantly lower values.

Therefore, when purchasing an Omega 3 preparation, you should always carefully check the EPA and DHA content!


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