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Essential fatty acids: know your efas

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A sometimes confusing array of abbreviations and names are used for the various essential fatty acids and related terms

A sometimes confusing array of abbreviations and names are used for the various essential fatty acids and related terms. The following is a quick guide to the omega-6 and omega-3 families of fatty acids. Some fatty acids can be synthesised into other fatty acids in the body - these are called 'precursors'. The precursors shown below are the most well-known, but are not necessarily the only ones involved in the synthesis of fatty acids in the body.

Fatty acid Also known as Precursor (can be made from)

Omega-3 family
Linolenic acid (properly known as alpha-linolenic acid) LNA or ALA Food
Eicosapentaenoic acid EPA LNA/ALA
Docosahexaenoic acid DHA EPA

Omega-6 family
Linoleic acid LA Food
Gamma-linoleic acid GLA LA
Dihomogamma-linoleic acid DGLA GLA
Arachidonic acid AA DGLA
Docosapentaenoic acid DPA AA


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