Fat Deficiency: What Are The Dangers Of Essential Fatty Acid Deficiency?

author avatar Dr. Eric Berg 08/31/2023

Fat, contrary to what many think, is an important nutrient your body needs, and fat deficiency can lead to several health concerns you need to be aware of. Find out what they are in my discussion below.

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In this article:

  1. Does Your Body Need Fat?
  2. What’s Going to Happen If You Are Not Absorbing Fat?
  3. What Are the Signs and Symptoms of Fat Deficiency?
  4. What Are Some of the Causes of Fat Deficiency?

Fat Deficiency Dangers You Should Know 

Does Your Body Need Fat?

A lot of people have concerns about the dangers of fat, but they may not know that fat deficiency is also a matter of concern. This is a very common situation. That’s why I want to talk about the dangers of not absorbing fat, so you know how to value the importance of the nutrient in the body. 

Do we need fat? Is it essential? Well, it is because there is such a thing as essential fatty acids your body needs. There are also essential amino acids, but there is no such thing as essential carbs.

What’s Going to Happen If You Are Not Absorbing Fat?

A man has low back pain  | Fat Deficiency: What Are The Dangers Of Essential Fatty Acid Deficiency? | causes of fat malabsorption

Let's say, for example, you are not absorbing dietary fat, so what's going to happen to your body? You are going to be deficient in many types of nutrients, such as the following:

1. Essential Fatty Acids

Essential fatty acids are omega-3 fatty acids with docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) as the main ones. DHA is present in your every cell and plays a crucial role in your brain. EPA is important for preventing adverse events after menopause, depression, and a heart attack. 

There is also α-Linolenic acid (ALA), but that's a precursor turning into an active form of omega-3. Omega-3 fatty acids are very important in preventing heart disease, cardiovascular disease, and inflammation. You need it for your eyes, brain, nervous system, and many other functions. 

2. Vitamin E

Vitamin E is essential for protecting the lining of your vascular system. It's also important for keeping muscles healthy. If you are deficient in this vitamin, you are going to experience muscle weakness, your pituitary and hormone functions will not work properly, and you will have unhealthy skin. You can get this vitamin from fruits and vegetables.

3. Vitamin D

Vitamin D is essential for calcium metabolism in your body and for strengthening your immune system. It also helps support good cardiovascular health and lung function. You may feel sad, depressed, suffer from low back pain, and a lot of other health issues if you have low Vitamin D levels.

4. Vitamin A

Fat deficiency also makes your Vitamin A low. One effect of low Vitamin A is night blindness or not being able to see in the dark well when you are driving at night. You may also have sinus issues, sleep apnea, and a weak immune system.

Sleep Apnea Definition: A serious sleep disorder where breathing repeatedly halts and then starts again. 

5. Vitamin K1 and K2

You may also lack Vitamin K1, which may lead to bruising. When Vitamin K2 is also low, it causes calcium build-up in your kidneys, arteries, and joints (in the form of arthritis, usually occurring in older adults). 

Your body may also have problems using cholesterol to give extra support to the cell membranes. Your body needs all of the cell membranes to make certain hormones, like sex hormones, growth hormone, and cortisol (stress hormone). You also need cholesterol for the brain, nervous system, and to make bile to help break down monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats.

What Are the Signs and Symptoms of Fat Deficiency?

Mature creative woman working at office desk feeling tired | Fat Deficiency: What Are The Dangers Of Essential Fatty Acid Deficiency? | what are fatty acids

The following are some fat malabsorption symptoms that can occur in your body:

  • Fatty pale and foul-smelling stool - Your stool looks fatty pale. It floats and does not sink. You may also have a foul-smelling stool, which can be embarrassing when you need to pass your bowels in a public toilet.
  • Protruded abdomen - You may experience a lot of bloating and gas. 
  • Weak muscles 
  • Scoliosis - You may have an abnormal curvature of the spine.
  • Poor vision - You may have ataxia, a condition where there are coordination problems between your vision and the way you walk. You feel clumsy and keep bumping into things. 
  • Retina damage 

RELATED: How Much Fat Do I Eat While On The Ketogenic Diet?

What Are Some of the Causes of Fat Deficiency?

Anything that's going to damage the lining of the gut can cause fat malabsorption. Here are some of the causes:

1. Crohn’s Disease

This condition is a type of inflammatory bowel disease. It creates inflammation to your digestive tract leading to malnutrition, weight loss, fatigue, severe diarrhea, and abdominal pain. This condition can also involve any part of your digestive tract.

2. Celiac Disease

Celiac disease is an immune response to consuming gluten. If you have this condition, eating gluten can trigger a reaction in your small intestine. The reaction can cause damage to the lining of your small intestine and prevent the intestine from absorbing nutrients over time.

3. Cystic Fibrosis

This is a genetic condition of the lungs but affects the intestine, kidneys, liver, and pancreas. Cystic fibrosis also makes your body produce a lot of mucus, which gives you a hard time breathing. Its long-term effect can cause you to cough up mucus as a result of persistent infections in the lungs.

4. Liver Damage

The liver damage I’m talking about is a fatty liver, sclerosis of the liver, and inflammation of the liver. The more fat you have in the liver, the less bile you can produce. The body has a reduced ability to absorb fatty acids, too. If you have a fatty liver, the absorption of the nutrients you are deficient in when you are not absorbing fats is diminished. 

5. Gallbladder Removal

Surgical equipment used during the operation | Fat Deficiency: What Are The Dangers Of Essential Fatty Acid Deficiency? | essential fatty acids list

If you have your gallbladder removed, you can’t store the amount of bile your body used to have. You'll still get some drainage, but you won't get the full capacity of the bile salts. I recommend taking purified bile salts. Taking these salts is just one thing you should do if you have a problem absorbing fat.

The other thing you should do is take probiotics because your gut recycles 90% of the bile. You may need to take the nutrients you are deficient in when you don’t absorb fat in higher amounts. This can let you bypass the damage in your colon, which is a barrier in fat absorption.  

6. Problems with the Pancreas 

Let's say you were not able to produce the enzymes, like lipase, necessary to break down or absorb fat. If you have diabetes, chances are, you also have a problem with the enzymes produced by the pancreas. The pancreas does two things. It makes enzymes to digest certain things and makes endocrine hormones, like Fat Storing Hormone and glucagon, to help regulate blood sugars. If you don't have enough of these enzymes, you may have a hard time releasing bile from the gallbladder because they both work together.  

7. Gastric Bypass 

If you have gastric bypass for weight loss, that can diminish your ability to absorb fats primarily because of the alterations done in your stomach. Gastric bypass is a type of surgery that changes how your stomach manages the food you eat. It creates a small pouch from your stomach and connects the pouch to the small intestine. 

Now you know the consequences and dangers of fat deficiency, the next thing you should do is find out if you’re at risk through the information provided above. Once you’ve done this, consult your doctor on how to address the cause, so you can allow your body to absorb fat again from your high-fat diet.

Which of the symptoms of fat deficiency are you experiencing? Tell us in the comments section below! 

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Disclaimer: Our educational content is not meant or intended for medical advice or treatment.

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