Ensuring an adequate intake of EFAs, both in the correct amounts and in the correct balance, is one of the most important prerequisites for both good health in general and, for those seeking to lose weight, optimal rates of weight loss. Somalabs now has Bari-EFA® available as a private label, both in standard (S1019) and enteric-coated (S1019EC) presentations.

EFAs are important nutrients, both for those following a low-calorie diet and for those simply wishing to ensure optimal nutrition. However, the proportions of the omega-6 to omega-3 EFAs in the daily intake are nearly as important as the absolute amounts consumed, since the balance of eicosanoids generated from the dietary intake is the deciding factor in homeostasis and for many metabolic processes. Since both omega-6 and omega-3 EFAs share the same metabolic pathways leading to the eicosanoids, an imbalance in intake can readily lead to an imbalance in the eicosanoids ultimately produced in the body. In other words, the indiscriminate consumption of significant amounts of fish oil, flax seed oil Evening Primrose oil, borage seed oil or any other EFA supplement that has not been carefully formulated to provide an appropriate "balance", far from leading to health benefits, may actually lead to adverse effects that can range from failure of the blood to clot at wound sites (an excess of omega-3 EFAs) through to premenstrual cramps (in women), intestinal cramping, or even thrombosis (an excess of omega-6 EFAs).

The scientific consensus is that the ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 EFAs, expressed as the parent EFAs (linoleic acid and alpha-linolenic acid) should be between 5:1 and 10:1 for optimal function and good health, and that the intake of omega-6, again expressed as linoleic acid, should be 3% of calories. For the average energy intake of 2400 calories, that means about 8 grams of linoleic acid, and between 0.8 grams and 1.6 grams of alpha-linolenic acid. This consensus is endorsed by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO).

The figure which follows illustrates the metabolic pathways leading from the parent EFAs to the three families of eicosanoids, and should serve to reinforce the need for "balance"!

The use of a low calorie diet does not reduce EFA requirements proportionately, nor does it affect the ratio. Therefore, even on a diet of 600 calories per day, an intake of 8 grams of omega-6 EFA and between 0.8 and 1.6 grams of omega-3 EFA is required, again expressed as the parent fatty acids. It is obvious that this represents a significant amount of calories if the EFAs are to be provided as classical edible oils such as soya bean oil.

Bari-EFA® was designed firstly to provide omega-6 and omega-3 EFAs in a more potent form (so that meeting EFA intake requirements did not add too many calories per day), and secondly to ensure that users did not stray too far from the optimal ratio for health (so that no unwanted metabolic effects occurred).

For the omega-6 EFAs, Bari-EFA® contains gamma-linolenic acid (GLA), which is already downstream from the first enzyme in the body, delta-6-desaturase, that metabolizes the EFAs into their functional forms. This is important, since this particular enzyme is the one that becomes inactive in the presence of trans fatty acids (from partially hydrogenated oils), and thus reduces the efficacy of the parent EFAs (both omega-6 and omega-3). It is also important, since the conversion of linoleic acid into GLA runs at a low efficiency (1% - 3%), so GLA is actually between 30 and 100 times as potent as linoleic acid. The 18 mg of GLA present in each Bari-EFA® capsule is thus the equivalent of up to 1.8 grams of linoleic acid, and this activity is unaffected by trans fats in the diet (which does not mean that those using Bari-EFA® have carte blanche to consume partially hydrogenated oils, though if they do, they will do themselves less harm).

On the omega-3 side, Bari-EFA® provides 75 mg of eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) per capsule, as well as 50 mg of docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). The EPA is the direct precursor for the eicosanoids of the PG3 family; the DHA is actually downstream from this point, but has very beneficial structural properties in the brain.

Again, the EPA is well removed from the enzyme that is so sensitive to the trans fats, but since the conversion of the parent omega-3 EFA is more efficient than that of omega-6 EFAs, the EPA is only about 5 times as potent as alpha-linolenic acid (the main fatty acid of flax seed oil). So the 75 mg of EPA in each capsule of Bari-EFA® is equivalent to up to 375 mg of the parent omega-3 EFA.

That gives an omega-6 to omega-3 ratio for Bari-EFA® of about 5:1, which is precisely the 5:1 that the FAO defined as the lower limit. However, Bari-EFA® also contains some linoleic acid which makes a further contribution, but more importantly, it was developed after a major review of a wide range of low calorie diets and normal foods.

This review showed that these diets, and even conventional food intakes, tended to provide omega-6 EFAs in the form of linoleic acid, but very little omega-3 EFA. When the EFA contents of the diets are combined with the EFA provided by 4 – 6 capsules of Bari-EFA® each day, the overall ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 falls well into the desirable range of 5:1 to 10:1 as defined by the FAO.

In summary, each Bari-EFA® capsule provides the equivalents of 1.8 grams of linoleic acid (the "parent" omega-6 EFA) and 0.375 gram of alpha-linolenic acid (the "parent" omega-3 EFA). Taking 4 – 6 capsules of Bari-EFA® per day in combination with a calorie-reduced diet meets the FAO requirements for optimal EFA intake with respect both to amounts and ratio. On less strict maintenance-type diets, 2 capsules of Bari-EFA® per day generally suffice to bring the user into the optimal intake and ratio requirements, providing no foods containing trans fatty acids are consumed. Bari-EFA® is thus the safest and most effective way of ensuring an adequate EFA intake without the risk of imbalances or overdoses occurring. An adequate and optimal EFA status is not only important for good health in general, it has also been shown to support the thermogenic mechanisms which are so important for optimal weight loss on low calorie diets.

Bari-EFA® is a registered trademark of Bariatrix Nutrition Inc., Lachine, Quebec, Canada.