STALKING THE ESSENTIAL FATTY ACIDS
Here, from NOHA NEWS of Fall 1987 (slightly modified), are some important fatty acids and some of their food sources:
omega-3 fatty acids
alpha-linolenic acid (18:3)
eicosapentaenoic acid (20:5)
docosahexaenoic acid (22:6)
Omega-6 fatty acids
linoleic acid (18:2)
gamma linolenic acid (18:3)
arachidonic acid (20:4)
The first number in parenthesis is the number of carbon atoms in the fatty acid chain; the second number is the number of unsaturated centers in the chain. Thus docosahexanoic acid is the longest and most unsaturated of these examples of fatty acids.
At this point some of you will be saying to yourselves, "But pesticides and other contaminants end up in fatty tissues. Why should we be eating the fat of cold ocean fish to get our omega-3s?" You have a point: modern pollution reaches even the distant, cold oceans.
For this dilemma there is no good answer – only a trade-off until society as a whole or as its more responsible members, decide to modify its overuse of toxic chemicals. In the words of Crawford and Marsh,
Article from NOHA NEWS, Vol. XVI, No. 4, Fall 1991, page 6.