donate now The Fatty Liver Foundation

Fatty Acids, How do I Love Thee, Let Me Count The Ways

OK, too cute by half I suppose.  However, now that you are here, if liver health is of interest to you let me splain you a little bit about why you need to care about fatty acids and carbon chains.  (eyes glazing over)  Stick with me for just a bit and I'll try to keep you alive.

If you will set aside your concepts of beauty for a moment, understand that you are really an oddly shaped container for a vast army of carbon chain molecules that are connected in various ways and which react chemically in a very flexible manner.  Most of it, while very entertaining, is beyond our ability to perceive or modify but the one thing that we can do is choose what carbon chains we deliver to the odd container that is our body.


Another important concept is that while we may think that we are among the finest creations in the universe, we are fundamentally the tool our bowel uses to seek food.  The fundamental function of life is to find and process energy.  You may not remember but here is an old family photo from a simpler time.


The bowel is hardly ever content so eventually it finds more elaborate ways to find energy and to deliver it for processing.  Some may be familiar with this more modern version.


Entertaining perhaps but what does this have to do with fatty acids?  It turns out that at the very heart of things we have structures called mitochondria.  It is in the mitochondria that the energy that powers you, the very ability of you to be alive as an odd bag of carbon chains, depends on what happens between the fatty acids and those mitochondria.

You can deliver a wide variety of different carbon chains to your bowel but once the bowel accepts them they are snipped and patched and manipulated so that they can be used by the mitochondria for fuel.  A lot of other things get made along the way but none of them matter if the energy system isn't working.  Here is a picture of a couple of mitochondria.


So how does that work?  In the simplest terms, the mitochondria takes two electrons and some oxygen and cuts the carbon chains to make CO2, the carbon dioxide you exhale, and a molecule, charged with energy, called ATP which is what powers your cells.

That is all very interesting but what is it doing in a newsletter about liver disease you ask?

Well let me splain you.  Here is a link to the diet advice that we support.

Fatty Liver Foundation Diet Information

If you go there you will find that we say that extra virgin olive oil should be the dominant dietary fat and it is mostly oleic fatty acid.  OK, but remember that the body can use a wide variety of fatty acids as fuel so why is oleic acid important?  The answer lies in the details of biochemistry, but it turns out that oleic acid is the most efficient fatty acid for the mitochondria to turn into energy. Here is the study if the research interests you.

So among the several good reasons to make olive oil a staple in your diet is the fact that it is the easiest for your body to process into energy.  This is a good thing. If you have a stressed liver it is wise to do everything you can to minimize the work it must do to keep your bowel transporter working and fuel efficiency is important to health.

Here is a small fact to keep in mind as you think about fatty acids.  When you eat excess carbs, the first thing the liver does with them is change them to palmitic acid which is a saturated fatty acid.  Pretty cool factoid but if you are dealing with a fatty liver it is a good thing to keep in mind as you plan your diet.

Self serving note here, but if you value the work we do here consider making a donation.

Click here to donate to the foundation

Click for our online community