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Do you have chicken skin on your upper arms?

If you do, you may be deficient in ESSENTIAL FATTY ACIDS

Keratosis pilaris (KP) is a very common genetic follicular disease that is manifested by the appearance of rough bumps on the skin and hence colloquially referred to as "chicken skin". Primarily, it appears on the back and outer sides of the upper arms, but can also occur on thighs and buttocks or any body part except palms or soles.

What are essential fatty acids?

Essential fatty acids (EFAs) include linoleic acid and arachidonic acid, which are omega-6 (n-6) fatty acids, and linolenic acid, eicosapentaenoic acid, and docosahexaenoic acid, which are omega-3 (n-3) fatty acids. In the body, arachidonic acid can be made from linoleic acid, and eicosapentaenoic and docosahexaenoic acids can be made from linolenic acid. 

EFAs are needed for many physiologic processes, including maintaining the integrity of the skin and the structure of cell membranes and synthesizing prostaglandins and leukotrienes. Eicosapentaenoic acid and docosahexaenoic acid are important components of the brain and retina.

Children with low blood levels of essential omega-3 fatty acids, have a greater tendency to have problems with behavior, learning and health consistent with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder or (ADHD).

Some previous studies by other researchers have indicated that symptoms associated with a deficiency in fatty acids are exhibited to a greater extent in children with ADHD. Those symptoms include thirst, frequent urination and dry skin and hair. Some researchers, however, were able to pinpoint omega-3s as the fatty acids that may be associated with the unique behavior problems in children with ADHD.

"There are two types of fatty acids that must be obtained from the foods we eat because the body cannot synthesize them," says John R. Burgess, assistant professor of foods and nutrition. "Omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids are both essential to the body. However, evidence is accumulating that a deficiency of omega-3 fatty acids may be tied to behavior problems, learning and health problems."

ADHD is the most common behavioral disorder in children, affecting between 3 percent and 5 percent of school-age youngsters. It's diagnosed more often in boys than girls. The cause of ADHD is unknown, but research suggests many factors may contribute to it, including biological and environmental elements.

Stimulant drugs such as Ritalin often are used to calm children with ADHD and are effective about 75 percent of the time. "With our research we are trying to find potential causes of ADHD so that nutritional treatments can be developed for some children with ADHD," Burgess says. 

Full-term babies fed a skim-milk formula low in linoleic acid may have growth failure, thrombocytopenia, alopecia, and a generalized scaly dermatitis, which resembles congenital ichthyosis, with increased water loss from the skin. This syndrome is reversed by linoleic acid supplementation. Deficiency is unlikely to occur on balanced diets, although cow's milk has only about 25% of the amount of linoleic acid in human milk. Although total fat intake in many developing countries is very low, much of the fat is of vegetable origin and is rich in linoleic acid with some linolenic acid.

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