Omega 3, 6 and 9 Fatty acids, their benefits and side effects.

Posted by Aleksandra Glapinska on

Omega fatty acids are reported to be what are so-called unsaturated healthy fats as they are known to prevent a number of medical problems such as depression, cardiovascular disease, brain dysfunction, asthma and arthritis.  Unlike saturated fats (butter), omega 3, 6, and 9 are polyunsaturated.  Saturation refers to the number of hydrogens that are attached to the carbon backbone of these molecules. Polyunsaturated fats have a few hydrogens missing with double bonds between the carbons where those hydrogens would go. Monounsaturated fats (olive oil) is missing one hydrogen and contains one double bond between two carbons. Polyunsaturated fats are known to be liquid at room temperature and remain liquid when they are refrigerated or frozen.  Monounsaturated oils are liquid at room temperature but solid when put in the refrigerator. Saturated fats have no double bonds between carbons and completely covered with hydrogens and solid at room temperature.  The three most important omega 3s are alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA).  Of these 3 omega 3 fatty acids, ALA is considered an essential fatty acid (EFA) because we can't synthesize it in our bodies.  We must take it in the diet whether with food or supplements.  Research demonstrates that ALA can be converted into EPA and then into DHA.  The enzymes responsible for this are known as desaturases which have the ability to elongate the fatty chain turning ALA into EPA and DHA.  So, quite often ALA is referred to as a short chain omega 3 and EPA and DHA are called long chain omega 3s. 

olive oil, 3 Omega fatty acids, unsaturated fats

Omega 3

Omega 3 fatty acid or alpha-linolenic acid is an essential fatty acid as it cannot be made by your body.  It is important for proper brain function and maintaining a healthy cardiovascular system.  Sources of omega 3 fatty acids include flaxseed oil, walnuts, soybeans, green leafy vegetables and oily fishes such as salmon, herring, sardines and tuna.  These foods should be taken in at least twice a week.

Omega 6

Linoleic acid, an omega 6 fatty acid, is an essential polyunsaturated fat that is an important component of cell membranes.  This fatty acid contributes to weight loss and building a lean body mass.  Linoleic acid effects the action of two hormones leptin and resistin that are involved with appetite, fat storage and insulin sensitivity.  Research on animals demonstrates that linoleic acid reduces food intake by up to 30 percent.  Linoleic acid is effective for losing belly fat and is often prescribed by doctors.  Linoleic acid also promotes muscle growth by increasing the production of growth hormone.  It also increases your metabolic rate (thermogenesis) helping you burn more fat.  Linoleic acid also acts as an anti-cancer agent and antioxidant.

Deficiencies in linoleic acid (omega 6) result in poor wound healing, brittle hair and hair falling out.  On the other hand, excess linoleic acid is associated with depression, attention deficiency disorder, obesity, sleeplessness, cancers and arthritis.  Most of us get too much omega 6s due to the processed foods we eat.  The key here is not to lower your intake of omega 6s (next to impossible to do) but rather take in more omega 3s to balance out the omega 6s to promote healthy metabolic pathways.  Healthy ratios of omega 6 to omega 3 fatty acids should be around 2:1 or 1:1.  Unfortunately, our diets put us at ratios somewhere between 20:1 to 50:1.        

Omega 9

The omega 9 fatty acids are nonessential fatty acids because our bodies can make them.  These are usually made by the body when you have enough omega 3s and 6s around.  Common omega 9s include the monounsaturated oleic, stearic and palmitic acids.  If you have low levels of omega 3s and 6s, omega 9s have to come from your diet.  Omega 9 fatty acids are associated with  improved arterial health and immune function.  Some dietary sources of omega 9s include olives, avocados and nuts.

Fish Oil

Fish oils are extracted from the tissues of oily fishes.  Fish oil is known to be rich in omega 3 fatty acids known as eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA).  EPA and DHA are known to reduce inflammation, promote heart health as well as being part of the plasma membrane of every cell.  Fish oil and flaxseed oil are good sources of omega 3 fatty acids although they supply these acids in different forms.  Fish oil supplies omega 3s in the form of EPA and DHA whereas flaxseed oil supplies omega 3 in the form of alpha-linolenic acid (ALA).  It is known that alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) can be converted to eicosapentaenoic (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) although it is not known how efficient the conversion is.  This conversion requires the enzyme delta-6-desaturase (D6D).  It is known that the amount converted is different in men and women and is also affected by the individual's diet.   

Flaxseed Oil

Flaxseed oil contains high levels of omega 3 fatty acids known as alpha-linolenic acid (ALA).  However, flaxseed oil does not contain the omega 3 fatty acids eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA).  EPA and DHA are commonly found in oily fishes such as salmon, mackerel and fish oil supplements.  It is known that alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) can be converted to eicosapentaenoic (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) although it is not known how efficient the conversion is.  This conversion requires the enzyme delta-6-desaturase (D6D).  It is known that the amount converted is different in men and women and is also affected by the individual's diet.    

Flaxseed oil also contains omega 6 and omega 9 fatty acids as well but in low concentration.  Sunflower seed oil only contains omega 6 and 9 fatty acids.  So, flaxseed oil is a good source of omega 3s whereas sunflower seed oil is not.  Most of us don't get enough omega 3s and too much of omega 6.  Taking in more omega 3s is recommended by the medical community to balance out the excessive omega 6. 

sunflower oil, Vitamin E, unsaturated fats

Sunflower Seed Oil

Sunflower seed oil contains mostly triglycerides that are derived from the fatty acid known as linoleic acid which is an omega 6 fatty acid.  This oil is a mixture of linoleic acid (omega 6), oleic acid (omega 9), stearic acid (omega 9) and palmitic acid (omega 9).  Linoleic acid is the major fat component accounting for somewhere between 48 to 74 percent depending on the sunflower seed type.  Oleic acid accounts for 14 to 40 percent depending on the source.  Stearic and palmitic acids are in low concentration.  Sunflower oil also contains lecithin, lots of vitamin Es and carotenoids.  This combination provides for monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats and low levels of saturated fats.

Sunflower oil is a better source of vitamin E than flaxseed oil.  This fat-soluble vitamin is also an antioxidant that protects your cells and fats from oxidative stress (removes free radicals) reducing your chances for cancer and heart disease.  This vitamin is also involved in regulating cell signalling pathways and gene expression.

Why You Should Take Omega 3, 6, 9

You have two essential fatty acids that your body can't make which are omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids.  These need to come from dietary sources.  They are important for brain development, overall brain function, immune function, cardiovascular health as well as being a membrane component in all your cells.  These fatty acids are important for maintaining healthy hair, skin and nails.  They are also important carriers of fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K.  Simply put your body cannot function without these molecules.  Given that most of us don't get enough of these essentials in our diets, supplementation is a good idea.  Xbrain's Omega 3, 6, 9 combines fish oil, flaxseed oil and sunflower seed oil to keep all bases covered.  The Fish oil provides high concentrations of EPA and DHA.  Flaxseed oil provides high concentrations of ALA and sunflower seed oil provides high concentrations of vitamin E.  Insufficient amounts of EFAs invites cardiovascular disease, weakened immunity, brain dysfunction and obesity.  Xbrain Omega 3, 6, 9 may help to maintain a healthy body and brain.

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