Good Fats, Defined


Omega fatty acids are supplement superstars. But do you know the differences between the 3s, 6s and 9s? What about fish and cod-liver oils? Most of these are essential fatty acids (EFAs) — needed to form normal cell structures and for numerous body functions. They are considered essential because they can only be consumed through the diet and not manufactured by the body. Below is a cheat sheet to help you sort through the supplement choices on the market.


What you need to know

Fish oil

Among other omega-3’s, it contains DHA and is used to treat cancer, dementia, atopic dermatitis (itchy skin), gingivitis (swollen gums), high cholesterol and triglycerides (blood fats), inflammatory bowel disease, lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, inflammation, multiple sclerosis, psoriasis and high blood pressure.

Cod-Liver oil

A rich source of vitamins A and D, it contains several essential fatty acids and is used as a nutritional supplement for healing burns, sores, ulcers or other skin wounds. It’s also taken by arthritis sufferers and to prevent heart disease.


There are three main forms: eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), and alpha-linolenic acid (ALA). EPA and DHA are found in fish, fish-oil supplements, and algae extract. ALA is found in plant sources like walnuts, flaxseed, canola and soybean oil.


Omega-6 is important for blood clotting and fighting infections. You may get much of this EFA from your diet, mostly in the form of vegetable oil.


Short for docosahexaenoic acid, this EFA comes from fish oil and is used to treat the same conditions.

Linoleic Acid

Also known as an omega-3 fatty acid, ALA comes from plants such as flaxseed and is used as a supplement for general health, benign prostatic hypertrophy and diabetes.

Linoleic Acid

Often used as a supplement to combat high blood pressure and skin problems.

Linoleic Acid

Also known as omega-6 and evening primrose oil, GLA is an acid used for treating alcoholism, asthma, high cholesterol, diabetes, eczema, high blood pressure, rheumatoid arthritis and scleroderma.