Omega 3-6-9: What You Need to Know About These Supplements

Omega 3-6-9: What You Need to Know About These Supplements


Everyone wants to eat healthily. But modern life is busy, and we may not always have the time to cook healthy meals (or we may not even know how to). When food doesn’t cut it, another way to ensure we get all the nutrients we need is by taking supplements. In this article, I’ll take a closer look at combined omega 3-6-9 supplements.

I will start by covering what omega fatty acids are, how they affect our overall health, and why our bodies need them. Then, we’ll take a look at omega supplements specifically and how to choose a good one.

So, are you striving to optimize your overall health and lead a healthier lifestyle? Here’s what you need to know about omega 3, 6, and 9 acids to achieve your goal.

What Are Omega Fatty Acids?

Omega fatty acids are polyunsaturated fats that are also known as “essential fats.” In other words, these are fats that our body cannot produce, and we need to take them through our food or as supplements.

The name “polyunsaturated” is derived from their chemical composition where “poly” stands for “many,” and “unsaturated” explains the double bonds they contain. This means that omega fatty acids have many of these bonds. There are also “monounsaturated” fats that contain only one double bond.

The position of the first double unsaturated bond from the end of the molecular chain (the omega) is what determines whether that’s an omega-3, omega-6, or omega-9 fatty acid.

For example, in omega-3, the first double bond is found on the third carbon atom, counting back from the molecular tail, and in omega-6 and -9 on the sixth and ninth carbon atom, respectively.[1]

A Quick Guide to Omega 3-6-9

Omega-3 acids have been a well-known dietary supplement, especially among the healthy lifestyle community.

However, very few consumers know about the benefits of other fatty acids—such as omega-6 and -9—and how to balance their intake to optimize their health. So, let’s have a better look at these healthy fats.

Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Omega-3 is the most popular among unsaturated fats. They are also known as essential fats because they are necessary for human growth and development. However, the human body cannot produce them, so the only way to enjoy their benefits is to take them through the food we consume or in the form of a supplement.

The omega-3 group is made of different types of unsaturated fatty acids whose molecular chains vary in shape and size.

These are the most popular:

  • ALA (Alpha-linoleic acid) – ALA is an 18-carbon chain fatty acid that our body uses for regulating, preventing, and treating cardiovascular diseases, such as arteriosclerosis, high blood pressure, and other heart-related diseases.
  • The EPA (Eicosapentaenoic acid) – EPA is a 20-carbon chain fatty acid usually prescribed to patients who have experienced a heart attack, surgery, and chemo treatments. It’s also believed to alleviate depression symptoms and manage inflammation caused by chronic diseases.[2] However, there is still plenty of research to be done to support many of these claims.
  • DHA (Docosahexaenoic acid) – DHA is a 22-carbon chain fatty acid commonly used for cholesterol control and plays an important role in infant development, especially with eye and nerve tissues.

As I have already mentioned, the human body is not able to synthesize these essential fats. Luckily, there are plenty of natural sources that we can and should use in the everyday diet to achieve optimal health.

Here are the most important sources of omega-3 acids:

  • Animal sources: salmon, herring, mackerel, oysters, cod liver oil, sardines, anchovies, caviar, omega-3-enriched eggs, meats, and dairy from grass-fed animals, etc.
  • Plant sources: walnuts, flax seeds, chia seeds, hemp seeds, soybeans, spinach, Brussels sprouts, etc.

Omega-6 Fatty Acids

Another healthy type of unsaturated fats is omega-6. Although not as popular as the omega-3, these fats play an important role in keeping our health in check. They are also considered “essential” and need to be consumed through the food in our diet.

These are the four types of omega-6 fatty acids:

  • LA (Linoleic acid) – LA is the main polyunsaturated fatty acid found in nuts, seeds, and vegetable oils, mostly used to prevent and fight coronary heart disease. It is also a popular compound in many cosmetic products used to fight acne and other skin conditions.
  • ARA (Arachidonic Acid) – ARA is a 20-carbon chain fatty acid that helps regulate the immune system. The body relies on ARA to create inflammation, a normal physical function much needed to fight bacteria and viruses and repair damaged tissues.
  • GLA (Gamma-linoleic) – GLA is mostly used to treat arthritis, nerve damage caused by diabetes, reduce inflammation, and prevent heart diseases.[3]
  • CLA (Conjugated linoleic acid) – CLA is a natural type of trans fat and a popular weight loss supplement.

Good sources of omega-6 polyunsaturated fats are:

  • Animal sources: dairy, meats, fish oil, eggs, etc.
  • Plant sources: soybeans, corn, safflower seeds and sunflower oils, walnuts, pumpkin seeds, tofu, avocado oil, peanut butter, etc.

Omega-9 Fatty Acids

Unlike the omega-3 and -6 polyunsaturated fats, omega-9 is a group of monounsaturated fats. They are also nonessential because the human body has the ability to produce them, and you don’t have to take supplements to regulate their intake.

The most common one among the omega-9 fatty acids is oleic acid. Several studies suggest that including oleic acid in your diet reduces the risk of coronary heart disease and reduces inflammation.[4]

Good sources of omega-9 are olive oil, cashew nut oil, almond oil, avocado oil, peanut oil, almond, cashews, etc.

Omega 3, 6, and 9 Health Benefits

Essential and nonessential omega fatty acids are incredibly for human health and development. The benefits of healthy fatty acids are many. In fact, very few other nutrients have been studied and researched to the same extent as the omega fatty acids.

Here are some of the most important health benefits of these fatty acids:

Health Benefits of Omega-3 Fatty Acids

  • Helps with improving heart disease risk factors: reduces triglycerides, lowers blood pressure, prevents blood clots, promotes ‘good’ HDL cholesterol, prevents arteriosclerosis[5]
  • Alleviates depression and anxiety symptoms
  • Manages chronic inflammation that can lead to heart attacks, cancer, and many other diseases
  • Helps you keep autoimmune diseases like rheumatoid arthritis, psoriasis, ulcerative colitis under control
  • Improves mental disorder symptoms: people with mental disorders prove to have low levels of blood omega-3[6]
  • Reduces liver fat in humans in cases of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD)
  • Crucial for eye and nerve tissue development as it is a major structural component of the retina

Health Benefits of Omega-6 Fatty Acids

  • Provides energy
  • Regulates pro-inflammatory processes in the body essential for fighting infections and injury[7]
  • May fight risk factors of cardiovascular diseases and stroke

Omega-3 Vs. Omega-6

While they are both polyunsaturated essential fatty acids that we need to consume through food and supplements, there are a few key differences between omega-3 vs. omega-6. For one, they have a different chemical structure.

Secondly, omega-3 regulates the anti-inflammatory processes, but omega-6 is responsible for pro-inflammatory processes. This means that they regulate different functions of the immune system, and an imbalance can result in various diseases.

Finally, omega-6 fatty acids are easy to come by as they are present in many foods the western society consumes regularly. Omega-3-rich-food consumption, on the other hand, is lower than ever.

To control the presence of omega-6 fatty acids in your body, lower the intake of processed seeds and seed oils.

Should You Take Omega 3-6-9 Supplements?

There is no doubt that omega fatty acids are essential for our mental and physical development. You will find lots and lots of combined supplements in the health stores. But the real question is: do you really need to take them?

We know that a disbalance in fatty acid ratios in the human body might cause inflammation and various other diseases. We also know that supplements are meant to help you balance the presence of fatty acids in the body and give you the right proportions, such as 2:1:1 for omegas 3, 6, and 9.

The thing is, you probably already get enough of omega 6 through food, and your body can produce omega 9 by itself. Unless you eat a very unhealthy diet, you might be better off with a pure omega-3 supplement instead.

In short, the best way to balance your omega intake is to be mindful of the food you consume.

What Is the Best Omega 3-6-9 Supplement?

If you do decide to go for a combined supplement, make sure you choose oils that have been cold-pressed. This is a natural method that uses a limited amount of heat in the extraction process and doesn’t oxidize the fatty acids.

Omega 3-6-9 supplements that contain an antioxidant, such as vitamin E, and have omega-3 content higher than 0.3 grams per serving are the best. Moreover, fish oil and algal oil-based supplements are a better choice because of the higher EPA and DHA presence shown to have greater health benefits than the ALA found in flaxseed oils.

Conclusion

Omega 3-6-9 foods and supplements are growing in popularity by the day. You might be tempted to take a supplement, but try to eat a balanced diet instead. Nature has already provided us with all the necessary nutrients, and all we have to do is choose the right ones to achieve overall health. If you do decide to take a supplement, pick one that will help you prevent disease or fight any existing condition.

People practicing a typical Western diet take plenty of omega-6 through their food, and the body has a natural ability to produce omega-9 fatty acids.

So, if your diet is already healthy, consider taking only omega 3s. Chances are the benefits will be quite the same or even better than if you take combined omega supplements.

More About Fish Oil Supplements

Featured photo credit: Yoav Hornung via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] HealthLine: Omega-3-6-9 Fatty Acids: A Complete Overview
[2] NCBI: Omega-3 Fatty Acids and Inflammatory Processes
[3] NIH: Gamma-linolenic acid: an antiinflammatory omega-6 fatty acid
[4] NIH: Omega-9 Oleic Acid, the Main Compound of Olive Oil, Mitigates Inflammation during Experimental Sepsis
[5] The Healthy Cuisine: Are Oysters Good For You? 5 Surprising Health Benefits
[6] Harvard Health Publishing: Omega-3 fatty acids for mood disorders
[7] NCBI: Gamma-linolenic acid, Dihommo-gamma-linolenic, Eicosanoids, and Inflammatory Processes)
  • LA can improve blood lipids and fight bad ‘LDL’ cholesterol when consumed as a substitute for saturated fats
  • Lowers the risk factors of coronary heart disease (CHD)
  • Health Benefits of Omega-9 Fatty Acids

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