Advertising

Published on April 29, 2021

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

Advertising
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]

Advertising

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:

Advertising

  • 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.

Advertising

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.

Advertising

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.

Advertising

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

    More by this author

    Maxime Saar

    Healthy Lifestyle Blogger & Positive Thinker

    Omega 3-6-9: What You Need to Know About These Supplements 23 Foods That Give You An Energy Boost Instantly 3 Types Of Energy Drinks And How Effective They Are 13 Best Food To Eat For Weight Loss And Energy

    Trending in Fish Oil

    1 13 Fish Oil Benefits For Women And Men 2 Should Men Take Fish Oil? 4 Fish Oil Benefits for Men 3 Flaxseed Oil vs Fish Oil: Which Is Better? 4 Cod Liver Oil vs Fish Oil: Which Is Better? 5 13 Health Benefits Of Omega 3 Fatty Acids (Backed By Science)

    Read Next

    Advertising
    Advertising

    Published on October 19, 2021

    13 Fish Oil Benefits For Women And Men

    Advertising
    13 Fish Oil Benefits For Women And Men

    Fish oils are great sources of omega-3 and -6 fatty acids. Omega fats are essential, meaning that they can’t be synthesized in your body and have to be eaten in your diet. Omega-3 is synthesized by microalgae—not by fish—but accumulates in the tissue when they are eaten by fish and shellfish further up the food chain. Oily fish contains about 30% fat in their tissues, and this is where the omega fatty acids are found. There are many claims about omega-3 fatty acids in fish oils. But what is the evidence of the real benefits of fish oil for men and women? Can fish oils really improve your brain health, reduce your cholesterol, or help your heart?

    Learn about the role of omega-3 as signaling molecules, in cell membranes, arthritis, and even eye disease. Find out the main benefits of fish oil for men and women and how to get enough.

    What Are Omega Fatty Acids?

    There are two types of fats or fatty acids that are essential and can’t be produced in our bodies: omega-3 and omega-6. Omega-3 can be broken down into three main forms: alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). Fish oils contain DHA and EPA omega fatty acids and are a good source of these essential fats.

    13 Benefits of Fish Oil (Omega Fatty Acids)

    There are several different health benefits of omega fatty acids. Below are the 13 most common fish oil benefits for men and women.

    1. Structural Role in Cells

    Omega-3 and -6 fatty acids have an important structural role, as they are needed for cell membranes. You have an estimated 724 trillion cells in your body, and that is a lot of cell membranes to keep healthy.

    Advertising

    2. Energy Source

    Both omega-3 and -6 are sources of energy, just like any other fat source. This means they can be used alongside energy from carbohydrates to power your body, providing energy for essential functions and exercise.

    3. Signaling Molecules

    Omega fatty acids are used to form signaling molecules called eicosanoids, comprised of prostaglandins, thromboxanes, and leukotrienes that have extremely important functions within our bodies.

    Prostaglandins

    There are many different prostaglandins with wide-ranging roles, such as the sensation of pain, inflammation, regulation of pregnancy and birth, control of blood pressure, secretion of stomach acid, contraction, and relaxation of smooth muscle.

    Thromboxanes

    Thromboxanes regulate blood clotting by causing constriction of blood vessels and the aggregation of platelets (so they stick together), which are early steps in blood clotting.

    Leukotrienes

    Leukotrienes are involved in immune function by attracting immune cells, such as neutrophils, to sites of inflammation. They also constrict bronchioles in the lungs and make capillary walls permeable.

    Advertising

    4. Prevent Heart Diseases

    Cardiovascular events are diseases related to blood vessels, such as clots, rhythm problems, and heart attacks. Studies have found that ALA may reduce the risk of cardiovascular events.[1][2]

    5. Decrease Cholesterol and Triglycerides

    Triglycerides are part of your cholesterol profile. Higher levels are associated with an increased risk of atherosclerosis and heart disease. Studies have found that there is an inverse relationship between omega-3 and triglyceride levels.[3] This means that an increased intake of omega-3 led to a decrease in triglycerides and that higher doses of omega-3 led to a greater effect. This effect was stronger in people who already had raised triglycerides.

    One of the ways of decreasing your risk of cardiovascular disease is by lowering your cholesterol. One study found that EPA and DHA decreased triglycerides by about 15% and reduced the risk of coronary artery death and coronary events, which are illnesses of arteries supplying the heart.

    6. Improve Brain Health

    A grouped meta-analysis has not found any link between omega 3 and dementia, but more information is needed to see if omega-3 can prevent cognitive decline. Learn more about this here: How Fish Oil Boosts Your Mental Clarity And Brain Power

    7. Help With Rheumatoid Arthritis

    Omega-3 supplements have been found to benefit the clinical outcomes of rheumatoid arthritis and may even delay the need for medications.[4][5]

    Advertising

    8. Decrease Progression of Osteoarthritis

    A large prospective study in patients with wear and tear (osteoarthritis OA) found that a higher intake of total and saturated fat was associated with an increased risk of worsening OA, whereas a higher intake of unsaturated fats was associated with decreased progression of OA measured via X-rays.[6]

    The current opinion is that the metabolic products of omega-3 fatty acids are less inflammatory than those produced from omega6 fatty acids. Western diets are associated with an imbalance of omega-3 and -6 such that instead of levels of omega-3 being higher than omega-6, the reverse is more commonly seen.

    9. Prevent Autoimmune Diseases

    There is also limited evidence that omega-3 supplementation may benefit people with other types of autoimmune arthropathies like systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), but more research is needed.

    10. Good For Eye Health

    The macula is part of the retina at the back of the eye, and although it is tiny—only about 5mm across—it has a very important role in vision. It is responsible for our central vision, most of our color vision, and the fine detail of what we see. Getting enough omega-3 is linked to a reduced risk of macular degeneration, one of the world’s leading causes of permanent eye damage and blindness.[7][8]

    11. Boost Your Mood

    It is suggested that omega-3 may play a role in the prevention and treatment of depression. However, meta-analyses of the data have not confirmed clear benefits. Instead, more research looking at the effect of supplementing omega-3 in people with depression is needed.[9]

    Advertising

    12. Lower Blood Pressure

    The evidence of the benefit of omega-3 fatty acids on high blood pressure (hypertension) is mixed with large-scale studies showing either no effect or a small reduction in risk of hypertension.[10][11] Omega-3 fats do have other health benefits, though. They are unlikely to do harm and are easily incorporated into your diet by eating oily fish twice a week and seeds, such as chia seeds, flaxseeds, and nuts.

    13. Help With Fertility

    Omega-3 appears to have a role in a healthy gamete (eggs and sperm) formation with consumption associated with increased probability of pregnancy and live birth rate.[12][13][14]

    Where Are Omega Fatty Acids Found?

    If you are allergic to fish or don’t eat it, how can you get enough omega-3? There are other sources of ALA is found in plant oils, such as flaxseed, soybean, and canola oils. DHA and EPA are found in oily fish, fish oils, and krill oils. DHA and EPA are synthesized by microalgae, not by the fish, but they accumulate in the tissue when they are eaten by fish and shellfish further up the food chain.

    Final Thoughts

    While there is evidence of the benefits for eye health, arthritis, improved cholesterol, and heart health, evidence to support the benefits of fish oil in helping high blood pressure, protecting brain health, and preventing dementia are less convincing.

    Studies have found a “whole food effect” where eating oily fish appears to be more beneficial than supplementing with a fish or cod liver oil. There are also other plant-based sources of omega-3. Although some of these studies suggest that the more omega-3 the better, there is a limit to the recommended dose of supplements unless prescribed by your doctor.

    Advertising

    Omega-3 supplements may interfere with warfarin, due to its anti-platelet role in clotting, so it’s best to check with your doctor before starting a supplement.

    Featured photo credit: Louis Hansel via unsplash.com

    Reference

    Read Next