What is vitamin F?

Vitamin F isn’t actually a vitamin. It’s made up of two kinds of polyunsaturated fatty acids. These fatty acids are alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) and linoleic acid (LA). ALA is an omega-3 fatty acid, and LA is an omega-6 fatty acid. Scientists discovered ALA and LA in the 1920s and mistook them for a vitamin they called vitamin F. The label stuck even though they were later found to be fats.

ALA and LA are essential fatty acids, which means you need them to survive. They play an important role in keeping your body running smoothly. Your body doesn’t produce all of the ALA and LA it needs to function properly. You need to get most of these fatty acids from your diet.

How does my body use vitamin F?

Your body needs vitamin F to perform many vital functions. Vitamin F plays a major role in your cell structure. The fatty acids within vitamin F provide structure and flexibility to the outer layer of your cells.

In addition, vitamin F assists your body with growth and development. It also helps your body make signaling compounds. These control your blood pressure, immune system and other bodily functions.

Vitamin F serves as a calorie source for your body. In addition, ALA and LA are converted to other types of fatty acids, which play other key roles in your body.

What are the benefits of vitamin F?

Vitamin F does many things for your body. These fatty acids control your bodily processes and may help prevent different types of diseases. Studies are ongoing, but vitamin F benefits may include:

  • Cardiac health: Consuming vitamin F may keep your heart healthy and prevent certain heart problems such as coronary heart disease. It may also help lower cholesterol in your blood.
  • Infant development: If you’re pregnant or breastfeeding, eating fish low in mercury may help with fetal growth and brain development.
  • Brain health: Vitamin F may help lower your risk of Alzheimer’s disease, dementia and other cognitive issues.
  • Mental health: Consuming fatty acids may help improve symptoms of depression and anxiety.
  • Eye health: Vitamin F can help with retina development and function, including relieving the symptoms of dry eye. It may also lower your risk of developing age-related macular degeneration.
  • Rheumatoid arthritis (RA): Vitamin F may help manage the symptoms of RA, such as inflammation, when you take it with your RA medications.
  • Skincare: Vitamin F in skincare products such as oils and creams aids in moisturizing your skin, which may help with acne, dryness and wrinkles. The fatty acids can maintain a skin barrier, which can help with conditions such as atopic dermatitis and psoriasis.

What are good sources of vitamin F?

You can find vitamin F in a variety of foods. Most plant-based food sources provide both ALA and LA, but many contain a higher amount of one fatty acid than the other. Foods that naturally contain vitamin F include:

  • Nuts: walnuts, hazelnuts, cashews, almonds, pine nuts.
  • Seeds: flaxseed, chia seeds, sunflower seeds.
  • Oils: flaxseed oil, canola oil, walnut oil, soybean oil.

Fish, such as salmon, tuna and sardines, may contain some ALA and LA, but they’re mostly made up of other kinds of omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids.

Other sources of vitamin F include soybeans, tofu, green leafy vegetables and kiwi fruit. Some foods are fortified with vitamin F. These include certain dairy products, eggs, juices and infant formulas.

You can also get vitamin F through dietary supplements such as flaxseed oil, primrose oil and black currant oil. In addition, you can apply vitamin F directly onto your skin. Many skincare serums, oils and creams contain vitamin F.

How much vitamin F do I need?

Scientists haven’t determined how much LA you should consume, but they do have recommended daily amounts of ALA. The amount of daily ALA you need depends on various factors. The average daily recommended amount of ALA you need are:

Age/Gender/Life StageRecommended Amount of ALA
Birth to age 12 months*0.5 g
Children ages 1 to 3 years0.7 g
Children ages 4 to 8 years0.9 g
Children assigned male at birth (AMAB) ages 9 to 13 years1.2 g
Children assigned female at birth (AFAB) ages 9 to 13 years1.0 g
People AMAB ages 14 years and up1.6 g
People AFAB ages 14 years and up1.1 g
Pregnant people1.4 g
Breastfeeding people1.3 g

*Data reflects the total amount of omega-3 fatty acids an infant needs. All other data reflects ALA amounts only.

Do I need to worry about any interactions while taking a vitamin F supplement?

It’s important to talk with your healthcare provider or pharmacist before taking any dietary supplements. Supplements such as omega-3 may interact with your medications. High doses of omega-3s may cause bleeding problems if you take warfarin (Coumadin®) or other anticoagulant medicines. Your healthcare provider can help you determine if there are any possible interactions between your supplements and your medications.

What are the side effects of taking a vitamin F supplement?

Omega-3 supplements don’t usually cause any side effects. When side effects do occur, they’re usually mild. Side effects may include:

A note from Cleveland Clinic

Vitamin F contains two essential fatty acids that you need for your body to function properly. Fortunately, these fatty acids can be found naturally in many of the foods you eat. If you’re not getting enough vitamin F in your diet, supplements are available. Vitamin F can help with brain development and can help reduce your risk of chronic conditions. Before taking a supplement, ask your healthcare provider if they think you should add it to your daily routine.

Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 05/24/2022.


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