Omega 3-6-9 fatty acids are one of the most popular food supplements. Usually extracted from vegetable or fish oil and have almost no side effects. According to statistics, only multivitamins and minerals (32%) and calcium supplements (12%) are more popular than omega-3 supplements (10%).
But what exactly are the omega 3-6-9 fatty acids and why are they so important?
Quick facts about fatty acids
Fatty acids play several roles in the body: they are the main component of stored body fat; serve as building blocks for cell membranes; regulate inflammatory processes.
Fatty acids are two main types – saturated and unsaturated. Saturated remain in a solid state at room temperature and is obtained from animal sources, and tropical fruits. Unsaturated get liquid at room temperature and comes from vegetables, seeds, nuts and fish.
Unsaturated fats can be polyunsaturated (mainly include omega-3 and 6 fatty acids), or mono-unsaturated (including omega 9).
The most important omega-3 fatty acids are alpha-linolenic acid (ALA; not to be confused with alpha-lipoic acid, which is also abbreviated as ALA), eicosapentaenoic (EPA) and docosahexaenoic (DHA). ALA is an essential (indispensable) fatty acid and should be collected by an external source- food or supplement.
The body is able to convert ALA into EPA and DHA, but it makes it very inefficiently, so in practice, they also must be obtained through food. EPA and DHA are essential for brain development and central nervous system. Furthermore, they have powerful anti-inflammatory action.
The importance of omega-3 to neurological development has led to some theories, according to which the additives with the omega-3 can treat neurological disorders while fighting inflammation. Unfortunately, the attempts do not support these theories, with one important exception- daily intake of 3 g. EPA / DHA improve rheumatoid arthritis, some patients even stopped using, or at least reducing medicines for this disease.
The main omega-6 polyunsaturated fatty acid intake through food is linoleic acid (LA). It is essential and is converted into another polyunsaturated fatty acid in the body – arachidonic acid (AA). AA and EPA serve as precursors for an important group of molecules known as eicosanoids.
These eicosanoids are formed by AA, increase inflammation, as well as the intensity and duration of pain. Eicosanoids from EPA does provide anti-inflammatory properties of omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids. The balance between these two kinds of eicosanoids determines how your body copes with inflammation. The more the ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 in favour of the former, the more you suffer from inflammatory processes!
Omega-9 monounsaturated fatty acids are found in animal fats and vegetable oils. The main type of omega-9 is the oleic acid. Since these fatty acids are not essential, no need to worry about obtaining them.
The relationship between omega-3 and omega-6
They are part of every cell in the body, so the change in the amount and ratio of them through diet directly affects the concentration of fatty acids in cell membranes. This, in turn, affects the number and type of eicosanoids and the inflammatory processes.
From a historical perspective, the ratio between omega-6 and omega-3 in the diet was approximately 2: 1; but the massive influx of vegetable oil in food preparation, the ratio usually is 20: 1. Obviously, this is far from healthy balance and if you want to be in good health, you need to do something about it. You can, of course, try supplements, but there is no better solution than proper nutritious.
Which foods contain omega 3-6-9?
Sources of omega-3 are herring, sardines, salmon, mackerel, mussels, etc .; plant based- flax and hemp seeds, walnuts, hazelnuts.
Sources of omega-6 are safflower, corn, cotton and sunflower oil.
Sources of omega-9 are olive oil and animal fats.