Omega 3, 6 & 9 Facts & Myths You Should Know
Table of contents:
- What are omega 3, 6 9 essential fatty acids?
- What are the symptoms of essential fatty acids deficiency?
- What are the benefits of Omega 3, 6 & 9 fatty acids?
- Why should you be concerned about the Omega 3 & 6 ratio in your diet?
- What are the sources of Omega 3 foods?
- Benefits of Omega 3
- What are the sources of Omega 6 foods?
- Types of omega-6 fatty acids food sources
- Benefits of Omega 6
- Highest Omega-6 Foods
- Benefits of Omega 9
- What are the sources of Omega 9 foods?
- Myth or Fact: Are there side effects to consuming omega 3?
- How much is too much Omega 3 fatty acids?
1. What are omega 3, 6 9 essential fatty acids?
Our bodies cannot produce Omega 3 & 6 fatty acids, that is why they’re called “essential.”
On the other hand, Omega 9 is produced by our bodies and therefore considered non-essential fatty acids. However, it does not mean that we do not need them.
Reduced-fat products and low-fat diets have become trendy because dietary fats have gained a bad reputation.
Even though it is easy to get the dietary fat that you need (often too much!), and your body is able to create its own to prevent deficiency.
Getting enough dietary fat and essential fatty acids in our diet are crucial to maintaining optimal health.
There are two main types of fatty acids – Saturated and Unsaturated.
Saturated fats or Omega 9 fatty acids are solid when at room temperature and found in animals and tropical plants.
Unsaturated fats, or Polyunsaturated fats, are usually liquid at room temperature and found in vegetables, seeds, and, most common, fatty fish. These is known as Omega 3 (alpha-linolenic acid) and sometimes Omega 6 (linoleic acid) fatty acids.
Both Omega 3 (alpha-linolenic acid) and Omega 6 (linoleic acid) fatty acids are essential because we can only get them through our diet since our bodies cannot produce them.
2. What are the symptoms of essential fatty acids deficiency?
Essential fatty acids deficiency can manifest in poor mental and physical wellbeing.
Common symptoms are:
- Dry, scaly skin
- Brittle fingernails
- Persistent dry mouth & lips
- Dull, patchy skin
- Constant, extreme thirst
- Cracked fingertips or heels
3. What are the benefits of Omega 3, 6 & 9 fatty acids?
There are many health benefits of fatty acids such as:
- Prevent heart disease
- Reduce triglycerides (fat or lipid in our blood) & blood pressure
- Reduce plaque build up in the arteries
- Reduce total cholesterol and bad LDL cholesterol
- Improve brain health & cognition
- Decreased risk of certain neurological disorders eg. Alzheimer’s disease
- Aid in the treatment of depression & anxiety
- Reduce pain and chronic inflammation
- Aid in the treatment of arthritis by reducing pain
4. Why should you be concerned about the Omega 3 & 6 ratio in your diet?
The traditional diet contained almost equal amounts of Omega 3 & 6 essential fatty acids.
However, over the past 100–150 years and especially in the last 75years, there has been a huge increase in the consumption of Omega 6 fatty acids.
The increase of Omega 6 in our diet is due to the industrial production of animal feeds using grains high in Omega 6 fatty acids. This led to the production of meat rich in Omega 6 and poor in Omega 3 fatty acids.
Similarly, cultured fish and eggs, and even cultivated vegetables are culprits of food sources high in Omega 6. All these food sources contain fewer Omega 3 fatty acids than those in the wild.
Today, Western diets and those of developed countries have ratios of 20–30:1 between Omega 6: Omega 3 instead of the traditional range of 1–2:1.
High consumption of Omega 6, typically in ratios of >20 : 1 has health implications such as
- Thrombus(plural)/thrombi: blood clot within the vascular system and obstructing blood flow.
- Atheroma: accumulation of material in the inner wall of an artery eg. cells or debris containing lipids, calcium, and some amount of fibrous tissue.
- Development of allergic disorders and
- Inflammatory disorders
- Type 2 diabetes
Artemis P Simopoulos, Essential fatty acids in health and chronic disease, The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Volume 70, Issue 3, September 1999, Pages 560s–569s, https://doi.org/10.1093/ajcn/70.3.560s
5. What are the sources of Omega 3 foods?
The Three Omega 3 in food are ALA, EPA, and DHA.
Alpha-linolenic Acid (ALA): Is plant-based Omega 3 found in green, leafy vegetables, flaxseeds, chia seeds and canola, walnut, and soybean oils. ALA is a short-chain Omega 3 that your body has to convert it into longer-chained EPA and DHA to be absorbed. This is inefficient and not recommended, unlike EPA and DHA.
Eicosapentaenoic Acid (EPA): This is a fatty acid found in oily fish, algae oil, and krill oil.
Docosahexaenoic Acid (DHA): This is also found in oily fish, algae oil, and krill oil.
Recommended sources Omega 3 containing EPA & DHA are:
- Salmon fish oil
- Cod liver oil
- Wild-caught Atlantic salmon
6. Benefits of Omega 3
The healthy sources of Omega 3 containing EPA & DHA can have a host of benefits such as:
- Antithrombotic – prevent the formation of blood clots
- Antiarrhythmic – prevent abnormal heartbeats
- Hypolipidemic – reduce the level of lipids or fat in the blood
- Vasodilatory – widening of blood vessels particularly in the large veins, arteries, and small branches of the artery
It can also aid in the secondary prevention of:
- Coronary heart disease,
- Type 2 diabetes,
And some patients with
- Renal disease,
- Rheumatoid arthritis,
- Ulcerative colitis,
- Crohn disease
7. What are the sources of Omega 6 foods?
Omega 6 fatty acids are essential fatty acids that can only be obtained through food and supplements, just like Omega 3.
While this healthy fat is not produced in the body at all, omega-6 fatty acids are important to the brain and play an important role in growth and development which is why we need to pay attention to Omega 6 food sources as well.
As mentioned earlier in this article, a typical western diet of developed economies tends towards an Omega 6-rich diet. Tilting the ratio to an unhealthy 20-30:1 Omega 6 to Omega 3 ratio.
8. Types of omega-6 fatty acids food sources:
Linoleic Acid: vegetable oils made from soybean, corn, safflower, sunflower, as well as peanut, cottonseed, rice bran.
Arachidonic Acid: dairy products, peanut oil, meat, eggs,
GLA (Gamma-linolenic acid): hemp seeds, spirulina, evening primrose oil, borage oil, black currant seed oil
9. Benefits of Omega 6
In combination with Omega3 in the proper ratio helps to:
Lower risk of heart disease and blood pressure
Reduce nerve pain
Help reduce symptoms of ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder)
Relieve rheumatoid arthritis
Support bone health.
*A poor Omega-3 to Omega-6 ratio in a typical western diet of up to 1:17may be “associated with worsening inflammation over time.”- University of Maryland Medical Center
Linoleic acid is a polyunsaturated, Omega-6 fatty acid. Linoleic acid in emu oil helps the skin by reducing the appearance of sunspots or reduce the effects of aging when it’s applied.
Studies have shown that linoleic acid helps to regulate melanin production that causes skin pigmentation.
10. Highest Omega-6 Foods:
- Sunflower oil
- Poppyseed oil
- Corn oil
- Walnut oil
- Cottonseed oil
- Soybean oil
- Sesame oil
11. Benefits of Omega 9
Omega-9 can be produced by the body, so supplementation is not as important as Omegas-3 and 6.
However, Omega-9 may help to:
- Reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease and stroke
- Aid decrease LDL cholesterol and possibly increased HDL cholesterol
- Support brain health,
- Potentially enhancing mood,
- Decrease edginess and anger
- Reduce symptoms of Alzheimer’s
Oleic acid is a monounsaturated, Omega-9 fatty acid found naturally in animals and vegetable fats.
When applied topically, the oleic acid in Pure Emu Oil from Emu Tracks helps with absorption and thereby transport the bioactive compounds into the affected skin condition.
Combine all the benefits of topical and oral consumption of Pure Emu Oil with our 2 Step Natural Skin Health at the bottom of this article.
“Thus, our results suggest a relevant role and potential therapeutic implication for fatty acids on skin wound healing.”
Influence of topical administration of n‐3 and n‐6 essential and n‐9 nonessential fatty acids on the healing of cutaneous wounds
Cristina Ribeiro Barros Cardoso MSC, DDS a Maria Aparecida Souza PhD a Eloísa Amália Vieira Ferro PhD b Sílvio Favoreto JR DDS, PhD c Janethe Deolina Oliveira Pena Md,PhD a
First published: 15 April 2004 https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1067-1927.2004.012216.x
12. What are the sources of Omega 9 foods?
- Macadamia nuts
- Soybean oil
- Olive oil
- Canola oil
- Almond butter
- Avocado oil
13. Myth or Fact: Are there side effects to consuming omega 3?
As most studies conducted on Omega 3 fatty acid were done on fish oil, there can be possible side effects from too much fish oil. We will explore what is too much further down this article.
Earlier on, we have cited the many health-enhancing benefits of Omega 3.
- High blood sugar
Omega 3 fatty acids can stimulate glucose production in the body. However, the evidence is inconclusive whether this can lead to increased blood sugar levels. Analyses have shown that taking daily doses of 3.9g of EPA and 3.7g of DHA does not affect the blood sugar levels of individuals suffering from type 2 diabetes.
Large amounts of fish oil consumption is linked to symptoms of nose or gum bleeds because it can prevent blood clot formation. So it is important to consult your doctor about taking fish oil supplements if you are on blood thinners or if you are scheduled for surgery.
- Lower blood pressure
Omega 3 fatty acids in fish oil have shown to help lower blood pressure. However, this can problematic for those with low blood pressure.
Diarrhea is a potential side effect from consuming fish oil and flaxseed oil, 2 common sources of Omega 3 fatty acids supplements.
Result: FACT (Selective)
- Acid reflux
Being high in fat, fish oil supplementation can cause belching, nausea, indigestion, and heartburn for some users.
Animal studies showed that a high intake of Omega 3 increases the risk of stroke but human studies found no correlation.
- Vitamin A Toxicity
Omega 3 fatty acids in some supplement sources are high in vitamin A. It can be toxic if consumed in large doses. Eg. 1 tablespoon of cod liver oil is already equivalent to 270% of your daily vitamin A needs.
Symptoms include dizziness, nausea, joint pain, and skin irritation as well as liver damage or even liver failure if vitamin A toxicity is continued long term.
While moderate doses of fish oil fatty acids can improve sleep quality, large doses may interfere with sleep and worsen anxiety. However, more studies are needed.
14. How much is too much Omega 3 fatty acids?
Some health conditions warrant a higher dose of Omega 3 fatty acid.
The European Food Safety Authority, recommends that Omega-3 fatty acid supplements at doses up to 5,000 mg daily can be consumed safely.
Generally, if you experience any of the symptoms stated above or some other negative side effects, decrease your intake of the Omega 3 supplements that you just started.
Consider meeting your omega-3 fatty acid needs through natural food sources.
Emu Oil capsules from Emu Tracks is a combination of Omega 3,6 & 9.
Pure Emu Oil is derived naturally from the fat of the native Australian emu bird. Pure Emu Oil has an Omega 6: Omega 3 ratio of 4:1, within the safe and healthy range, suitable for long term consumption.