Benefits of Omega-3-6-9 : Keeping the Balance

Benefits of Omega-3-6-9 : Keeping the Balance

Benefits of Omega-3-6-9 : Keeping the Balance

Benefits of Omega : Keeping Nutrient Balance


We hear a lot about Omega-3 fatty acids and how beneficial they are for the body. In fact, if you google omega fatty acids, most search results are about omega-3 fatty acids. However, omega-3s are just one of three omega fatty acids. The body needs all of them, but the typical Western diets create an omega fatty acid imbalance.

Essential and Non-Essential Nutrients


Essential and Non-Essential Nutrients

Essential and non-essential nutrients are both indispensable for normal physiological function. The difference between the two is how the body obtains them.

Nutrients the body is unable to produce on its own are called "essential." Essential nutrients can only come from dietary sources. There are thirteen vitamins, fifteen minerals, nine amino acids and two fatty acids that are essential nutrients. Omega-3s and omega-6s are the two essential fatty acids.

The body can make "Non-essential" nutrients from dietary sources, but they also come from supplements. While termed "non-essential," they are still needed by the body to maintain health. Omega-9 fatty acids are a non-essential nutrient.

Omega-3 Fatty Acids


Omega-3 Fatty Acids

The reason for a lot of press about omega-3s is that research shows the enormous health value they provide the body. Also, research shows most Western diets are lacking in omega-3s. The typical Western diet is weighted towards carbohydrates, sugar, and red meat.

It contains little fish which is a rich source of omega-3s. As a result, the lack of omega-3s creates an imbalance between the fatty acids, which can be detrimental to health.

Omega-3 fatty acids are categorized into three common types with each having a primary function in the body.

  • Eicosatetraenoic acid (EPA) produces the biochemical eicosanoids whose main function is to reduce inflammation in the body and can help reduce the symptoms of depression.

  • Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) is necessary for healthy brain development and function. It makes up about 8% of the brain's weight.

  • Alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) is used by the body for energy and can convert to EPA and DHA, although not efficiently.


Benefits of Omega-3s


Benefits of Omega-3s

Research shows that omega-3s helps the body in many ways and can also help prevent or heal many medical conditions. Some omega-3s benefits are:

  • Support infant brain development

  • Fights inflammation

  • Prevents dementia

  • Improves bone health

  • Lowers joint and muscle pain

  • Assists in weight loss

  • Supports mental health

  • Increases HDL cholesterol (good) and reduce triglycerides

  • Reduces blood pressure

  • Decreases liver fat

  • Prevents arterial plaque

  • Boosts immunity

  • Reduces risk for cancer

  • Necessary for skin health


Deficiencies in omega-3s can lead to chronic health issues such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, obesity, depression, and others.

Sources for Omega-3 Fatty Acids


Sources for Omega-3 Fatty Acids

The main source of omega-3s is fatty fish such as salmon, herring, sardines, and cod. The American Heart Association recommends eating 3.5 ounces of fish rich in omega-3s at least twice a week. Omega-3s are also found in these foods:

  • Walnuts

  • Chia seeds

  • Flaxseeds

  • Hemp seeds

  • Egg Yolk

  • Cod liver oil and fish oil supplements


Omega-6 Fatty Acids


Omega-6 Fatty Acids

Omega-6 fatty acids like omega-3s need to come from food. However, the Western diet is overloaded with omega-6 fatty acids. Therefore, most people get too many of them causing an imbalance in the ratio between omega-3s and omega-6s. The ratio between omega-6 fatty acids and omega-3 is supposed to be 4:1. However, people who follow the typical Western diet have a ratio between 10:1 and 50:1.

Omega-6s fatty acids main bodily function is to produce energy. The primary type of omega-6 is linoleic acid that converts to arachidonic acid (ARA) which are pro-inflammatory. While this is important for the immune system, high amount of ARA causes too much inflammation and increase the risk of inflammatory diseases. When in balance with the other omega fatty acids, omega-6s fatty acids also help the body produce hormones.

Scientists believe imbalances between omega-3 and omega-6 is the reason for the rise in chronic diseases, such as asthma, coronary heart disease, some cancers, autoimmune and neurodegenerative disease, obesity, depression, etc.

Cutting Down on Omega-6 Fatty Acids


Cutting Down on Omega-6 Fatty Acids

Since too many omega-6s can cause inflammation and the Western diet is filled with omega-6 foods, the recommendation is to follow an anti-inflammatory diet that increases omega-3s and decreases omega-6s to improve the ratio between them. Foods high in omega-6 fatty acids include:

Processed foods that contain refined vegetable oils containing corn, soy, cottonseed, safflower, sunflower, such as:

  • Prepared foods (deli, boxed, frozen pizza, etc.)

  • Fast food

  • Crackers

  • Margarine

  • Bagels

  • Cookies and other commercially produced sweets


At home, limit the use of refined oils mentioned above and use extra virgin olive oil. And of course, consume more foods with omega-3s.

Omega-9 Fatty Acids


Omega-9 Fatty Acids

Unlike omega-3 and omega-6, omega-9 fatty acids are monounsaturated and a non-essential nutrient. The most common omega-9 is oleic acid and is easily found in the diet. Omega-9 fatty acids are the most plentiful fat found in cells. Although common to the body, research has shown that consuming foods rich in omega-9 fatty acids can provide the body with specific health benefits:

  • Reduces cholesterol triglycerides and low-density lipoprotein (LDL) in diabetic patients.

  • Decreases inflammation

  • Improves insulin compared to diets high in saturated fats.

  • Lessens the risk of cardiovascular disease and stroke

  • Increases energy

  • Enhances mood


Foods Rich in Omega-9s


Foods Rich in Omega-9s

Since our body is equipped to synthesize omega-9s, it's important not to overdo consuming them to keep the omega fatty acids in balance.

  • Olives and olive oil

  • Canola oil

  • Avocados

  • Nuts (almonds, pistachios, hazelnuts, macadamia, cashews)


Because omega fatty acids need to be in balance in the body and the body makes one of them but not the other two, and most people get too many of one of them, it may seem complicated as to how to balance them.

Here's some simple advice from experts: Increase consumption of omega-3 rich foods and reduce the consumption of omega-6 foods. And consume some omega-9 foods, but don't overdo it.

References

Fish and Omega-3 Fatty Acids. Retrieved from https://www.heart.org/en/healthy-living/healthy-eating/eat-smart/fats/fish-and-omega-3-fatty-acids

Levy, Jillian, CHHC. 15 Omega-3 Foods Your Body Needs Now (December 31, 2018). Retrieved from https://draxe.com/omega-3-foods/.

Non-essential Nutrients. Retrieved from: Nutrients 101: Essential and Non-Essential Nutrients Explained on-Essential_Nutrients

Oliver, Kyra. Omega-9 Benefits the Heart, Brain, & Your Mood (June 27, 2018). Retrieved from https://draxe.com/omega-9-benefits/.

Robertson, Ruairi, Ph.D. Omega-3-6-9 Fatty Acids: A Complete Overview (January 15, 2017). Retrieved from https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/omega-3-6-9-overview.

Weil, Andrew, M.D. Balancing Omega-3 And Omega-6? Retrieved from https://www.drweil.com/vitamins-supplements-herbs/vitamins/balancing-omega-3-and-omega-6/.

Weil, Andrew, M.D. Need Omega-9 Fatty Acid? (December 20, 2012). Retrieved from https://www.drweil.com/vitamins-supplements-herbs/supplements-remedies/need-omega-9-fatty-acid/.

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