The so-called “essential” fatty acids are fatty acids that cannot be synthesized by the human body and that are vital to the proper functioning of its physiological activities. They must therefore be supplied through diet to meet the body’s daily needs.
The two essential fatty acids are linoleic acid (LA), precursor of all fatty acids in the omega 6 family, and alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), precursor of all omega 3 fatty acids.
From these two precursors, the body can synthesize other fatty acids, including long-chain fatty acids like omega 3 family eicosapentaenoic (EPA) and docosahexaenoic (DHA) acids, and omega 6 family gamma linolenic (GLA) and arachidonic (AA) acids.
However, since the conversion rate of these acids is too low to cover daily needs, it is essential that food supplies not only the essential fatty acids, but also their long-chain derivatives in adequate quantities.