The one area I could not see physically but noticed on my blood results that might have pointed to an essential fatty acid (EFA) deficiency were my cholesterol levels. They had, at first, improved on the low-fat raw vegan diet, but as time passed, got worse instead of better.
My last blood test (right as I was beginning EFA supplementation) showed abnormal HDL and triglyceride levels. I subsequently discovered in my research that both of these areas are strongly affected by EFA levels. So if I indeed had an EFA deficiency, having these levels improve with supplementation would be some pretty compelling evidence for a deficiency.
This is copied from my previous diabetes blog, after my last endocrinologist visit in April, 2013:
In June of 2012, when I was pretty strict LFRV, my triglycerides were at 138, bordering high (HDL 45- "low"). I remember wondering why, because my previous reading (March 2012) triglycerides reading had been 79 (HDL 59- "normal"), which had been a great improvement from my previous reading of 144 (Sept 2011)- (HDL 42- "low"), and also great improvement from prior readings. So things WERE improving...until they stopped improving and started going the other way.
In September of 2012, after a month of being "free" with my eating (and including a lot more fats and needing more insulin and feeling like crap with the added foods), my triglycerides were 94 (HDL 44--"low"). That did not make sense to me...but now I am wondering if it was due to getting more of the needed fatty acids that month. THIS time, my triglycerides were in the "high" range, at 179(mg/dl), and HDLs at 39--"low".
Drum roll, please...this time (July 2013, after 3 months of EFA supplementation and, otherwise, the same diet and activity levels as previously...though I suppose a bit more active since I felt more energy with the EFAs) my triglycerides were at 127 (normal!) and my HDLs were 53 (normal!). Yay!
I did some reading about LDLs this evening, since that level went up, though was still in the normal range. Most articles listed animal products as the cause for increased LDLs. A couple vegan sources mentioned activity level, genetics, and autoimmune disease/lectins affecting LDLs. One source said that high-carb diets & high insulin levels raise LDLs.
I had remembered Don Bennett talking about cholesterol in his book, Q&A:The Raw Food Diet, so went back and re-read that section. Apparently, cholesterol readings for those who are eating a healthy fruit-based raw vegan diet doesn't necessarily mean anything. He gives a long explanation which I cannot do justice in summary, but I will try...
High cholesterol, which comes from diets high in animal products, can be a predictor of heart disease due to the diet which causes heart disease. High cholesterol apart from the animal product diet really doesn't mean a whole lot. (For the real explanation and a whole lot of other info, just get Don's book--it's only ten bucks for the ebook. I use it as a reference all the time.)
So, for what it's worth, I am very happy that my HDL and triglyceride levels, which had been out of range three months ago, now are beautifully within range, as a result of supplementing with Omega 3 fatty acids. Very cool. :)