So everyone knows that “Omega fatty acids” are an important supplement right?
But what do these “omegas” even do though? What are omegas? Aren’t there different types of omegas?
What I’m going to try to do in this blog post is answer all of the above questions and more. Again, I like to reiterate the fact that I’m not a medical professional, but I do believe in doing the best you can to not only promote health and wellness, but to help educate people to understand the importance of maintaining a balanced diet and lifestyle.
Let’s get started!
WHAT ARE OMEGA FATTY ACIDS?
I found a really good explanation on “paleoleap.com” that kind of simplified the answer to this question:
There are three types of omega fatty acids, and they are all unsaturated fats, meaning that they all have at least one “weak patch” in the string.
Omega-3 fats are polyunsaturated (many weak patches), and they have their first weak patch in the string (the first double bond) just after the third “bead.”
Omega-6 fats are also polyunsaturated, with their first weak patch just after the sixth bead.
Omega-9 fats are either monounsaturated or polyunsaturated, and have their first weak patch just after the ninth bead.
So in general, Omega-3s,-6s, and -9s are all fats with different properties and benefits due to the differences in their molecular structure.
Let’s get into the specifics:
OMEGA-3 FATTY ACIDS
Omega-3 fatty acids cannot be naturally made in the body, so they are considered “essential fatty acids” and need to be included in our diet via supplements or foods containing omega-3s.
The three most common omega-3s are ALA, EPA, and DHA.
ALA (Alpha-Linolenic Acid)
ALAs are one of the most common types of omega-3s. It’s mostly found in plant foods including chia, flax, and hemp seeds. When ALAs are inside the body, they need to be converted into EPA or DHA. However, the human body doesn’t do the best job at converting ALA, so it’s not as efficient of a fatty acid as the other two. In order to properly convert ALA into EPA & DHA, the body has to have enough nutrients such as vitamins B6 & B7, calcium, magnesium, zinc (which the previous 3 can be purchased together in one bottle now a days), and other vitamins/minerals. People who eat a vegan/plant-based diet lack the previously mentioned nutrients and can inhibit the conversion of AHA to EPA/DHA.
EPA (Eicosapentaenoic Acid)
EPAs help to form “eicosanoids.” Eicosanoids help to dilate blood vessels and reduce inflammation. EPAs can be found in marine life such as fatty fishes and algae. In combination with DHAs, these are actually more useful in the body than ALAs. Together, they create the best environment for your cell membranes, which in return promotes your memory, cognitive health, and your overall well-being.
There have actually been studies made where the participants benefited from omega-3 fatty acids therapeutically for patients suffering from schizophrenia /depression, and the benefit particularly displayed itself when EPA was added to an existing psychotropic medication.
DHA (Docosahexaenoic Acid)
DHAs play very important roles in the health of the skin and retina in the eye. It’s said to be very helpful to add DHAs to an infant’s/child’s diet because it helps promote healthy brain function. DHAs have also been shown to help with arthritis, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and some cancers. It also helps with reducing triglycerides. DHAs can be found in wild salmon, other oily fishes, flaxseeds, and walnuts.
Overall, omega-3s help to improve your heart health, mental health, weight management, decrease liver fat, fight inflammation, prevent dementia, promote bone health, and preventing asthma.
OMEGA-6 FATTY ACIDS
Omega-6s are polyunsaturated fatty acids, they are also considered “essential,” and are used for energy.
The most common of the omega-6s is linoleic acid. Having a healthy balance of foods high in linoleic acid and omega-3 foods can help with improving your cardiovascular, brain, immunity, skin, and bone health, and reduce chronic diseases.
Unfortunately, if there is an imbalance of ARAs (a derivative of omega-6s), then it will produce too many eicosanoids which can cause inflammation if there are too many.
The recommended ratio of omega 6 to omega 3 is 4:1 or less.
GLA (gamma-linolenic acid) is an omega-6 fatty acid found in primrose oil, and other oils, and there are studies showing that GLAs can help reduce the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis, as well as help to treat brain cancer.
CLA (conjugated linoleic acid), another omega-6 fatty acid, has been found to reduce body fat in adults. It’s a very popular weight management supplement that works for some people. CLAs have anti-inflammatory properties and tend to act like omega-3s in the body when ingested. It can also help to boost the immune system. CLA can naturally be found in vegetable oils, grass-fed butter, beef, and full-fat dairy.
OMEGA-9 FATTY ACIDS
Omega-9s can be produced in the body, so it is not considered essential. Oleic acid is the most common omega-9 fatty acid, and can be found in olive oil, macadamia oil, and lard.
One study found that a diet found in high-monounsaturated fats could reduce plasma triglycerides by 19%, and lowers bad cholesterol by 22% in patients with diabetes.
In addition, the same people who had a high-monounsaturated fats diet were found to have less inflammation and better insulin sensitivity than those who ate diets high in saturated fat.
A healthy source of omega-9 fatty acids come from avocados, olive oil, and almonds.
Omega-9 fatty acids can also help with mood and energy stabilization.
You don’t really have to worry about omega-9s because they are one of the most abundant fatty acids found in the standard American diet, and your body has all the necessary tools to make omega-9s if and when necessary.
It’s recommended to have a diet rich in omega-3s, 6s, and 9s; however the typical American diet already consists of enough omega-6s, and the body is able to produce omega-9s. The majority of people should be incorporating omega-3s into their diets.
A supplement that has vitamin E well help for the omegas to not oxidize. And a supplement containing fish/marine life is considered better than taking a supplement that contains plant-based omegas.
And that is it! I’ve read through a lot of articles on the internet, and I just wanted to bring it all together in one blog post to simplify it for you guys.
Thank you for reading through this! Feel free to comment how you incorporate omegas into your diet! And also check out my etsy shop. I’m currently selling handmade, natural soaps to help fight against environmental toxins 🙂