Omega-3 vs Omega-6 Fatty Acids

The typical Western diet tends to present some challenges to our health and wellness. On one hand, it’s high in the food groups that should be kept in moderation, like red meat, processed foods, and high sugar foods. On the other hand, it’s low in the nutrients that we should get lots of, like fiber, water, certain vitamins and minerals, and essential fatty acids. Consequently, this diet style is associated with some negative outcomes if left unchecked, such as increased risk of heart disease, diabetes, obesity, and certain types of cancer. [1] 

Of all the nutrients that the Western diet tends to lack, omega-3 fatty acids seem to be among the hardest to get, despite their incredible benefits. This type of essential fatty acid is so important due to its impact on heart health, inflammation, skin health, and more. All the while, it can be incredibly challenging to get from our diet. Well, unless you know where to look for it…

While omega-3 fatty acids can be lacking in the Western diet, omega-6 fatty acids are usually found in abundance. While omega-6 fatty acids do have their benefits, they also have their drawbacks on human health as well. Interestingly enough, the most important factor to consider is the proportion of omega-6 fatty acids you eat in relation to omega-3 fatty acids. 

In this blog, I want to help you better understand what exactly the essential fatty acids are, and how they impact our health. I also want to help you identify common sources of these nutrients in the foods you eat, as well as the ideal ratio of omega fatty acids, so you can optimize your diet to support a healthy lifestyle. 

Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Omega-3 fatty acids are essential fatty acids, meaning that our body cannot produce these nutrients, and we must get them from our diet or supplements to maintain our stores. There are three main types of omega-3s – eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), and alpha-linolenic (ALA).

They provide us with some incredible benefits, ranging from the health of our eyes, to our brains, to our hearts. Here are some of the most well-established benefits of omega-3s, according to research:

  • Consumption of these fats are known to play an important role in heart health. Studies have shown that eating omega-3s is associated with decreased triglycerides, improvement in healthy cholesterol, reduced risk of cardiovascular death, and reduced risk of cardiovascular incidents, like heart attacks. [2-5]
  • DHA is an essential component of your eyes, and plays a large role in ocular health. In fact, some studies have found that low intake of omega-3s may cause problems with vision, such as macular degeneration [6-7]
  • DHA is also an important component of your brain, especially in the development of the brain. Omega-3s are vital for the development of a fetus, and thus, are often included in prenatal vitamin supplements! [8]
  • There have also been studies to suggest that omega-3 fatty acids contribute to decreasing chronic inflammation in the body, as well as anxiety. [9]

You can find EPA and DHA in cold water, fatty fish, such as mackerel, tuna, salmon, herring, and shellfish. You can also find these fatty acids in vegetarian sources, as well. Primarily seaweed, nori, spirulina, and chlorella. ALA is more commonly found in plant-based sources, such as chia seeds, flax seeds, hemp seeds, walnuts, edamame, and kidney beans.

Omega-6 Fatty Acids

Like omega-3 fatty acids, omega-6 fatty acids are essential for our health, and we need to consume them on a regular basis. However, unlike omega-3 fatty acids, omega-6s tend to have some less desirable health effects when eaten in excess. 

Most significantly, researchers believe that they contribute to inflammation in the body. While inflammation can be good for us (it’s our body’s way of protecting us from illness and injury), too much inflammation can have some negative consequences. When inflammation persists, the cells and molecules that responded to the initial trigger can actually harm the body tissues they’re trying to protect. This is why we have to consider the amount of omega-6 fatty acids we eat, especially compared to omega-3 fatty acids (which have the opposite effect). [10]

Our diet is much more rich in omega-6 compared to omega-3. You can find omega-6s in a variety of vegetable oils, such as sunflower, safflower, soy, sesame, and corn oils, as well as in seeds and nuts. 

The Perfect Ratio for Optimized Health

While omega-6 fatty acids don’t seem to have the overwhelming benefits of omega-3s, together, they are essential for human health. In order to prevent the more negative outcomes associated with omega-6s, it’s important to maintain a healthy ratio of omega-3 to -6 intake. 

Currently, the Western diet style averages a ratio of 16:1, omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids. In comparison, researchers suggest aiming for a ratio closer to 4:1 – i.e. for every 4 mg of omega-6 you consume, you should consume at least 1 mg of omega-3. This ratio would likely improve if the Western diet was richer in consumption of fatty fish, seaweed, algae, seeds, and nuts. However, it can be challenging to maintain consistent intake of these food groups. [11]

The good news is that supplementation is a great way to ensure that you’re getting enough omega-3 fatty acids on a daily basis. One of the more challenging forms of omega-3 to get is DHA, as many individuals may not regularly consume the fish or algae products that are rich in this nutrient. 

This is why I choose to formulate Complete Collagen+ with omega-3 fatty acids, DHA fatty acids in particular! I want to make sure that you’re getting all the power of collagen, with the added benefit of a daily dose of omega-3 fatty acids. EverBella’s collagen contains 400 mg of vegan DHA, and was designed to ensure that the collagen is more readily available for absorption. 

Try it, risk free with our 180-day, money back guarantee!

Citations

  1. Tilman, D., Clark, M. Global diets link environmental sustainability and human health. Nature 515, 518–522 (2014). https://doi.org/10.1038/nature13959
  2. Stone NJ.Fish consumption, fish oil, lipids, and coronary heart disease. Circulation. 1996; 94:2337–2340. CrossrefMedlineGoogle Scholar
  3. Hu FB, Bronner L, Willett WC, Stampfer MJ, Rexrode KM, Albert CM, Hunter D, Manson JE.Fish and omega-3 fatty acid intake and risk of coronary heart disease in women. JAMA. 2002; 287:1815–1821. CrossrefMedlineGoogle Scholar
  4. Dietary supplementation with n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids and vitamin E after myocardial infarction: results of the GISSI-Prevenzione trial. Gruppo Italiano per lo Studio della Sopravvivenza nell’Infarto miocardico.Lancet. 1999; 354:447–455. CrossrefMedlineGoogle Scholar
  5. Kris-Etherton PM, Harris WS, Appel LJ; American Heart Association. Nutrition Committee. Fish consumption, fish oil, omega-3 fatty acids, and cardiovascular disease. Circulation. 2002; 106:2747–2757. LinkGoogle Scholar
  6. SanGiovanni, John Paul, and Emily Y Chew. “The role of omega-3 long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids in health and disease of the retina.” Progress in retinal and eye research vol. 24,1 (2005): 87-138. doi:10.1016/j.preteyeres.2004.06.002
  7. Merle, Bénédicte M J et al. “Circulating omega-3 Fatty acids and neovascular age-related macular degeneration.” Investigative ophthalmology & visual science vol. 55,3 2010-9. 28 Mar. 2014, doi:10.1167/iovs.14-13916
  8. Coletta, Jaclyn M et al. “Omega-3 Fatty acids and pregnancy.” Reviews in obstetrics & gynecology vol. 3,4 (2010): 163-71.
  9. Kiecolt-Glaser, Janice K et al. “Omega-3 supplementation lowers inflammation and anxiety in medical students: a randomized controlled trial.” Brain, behavior, and immunity vol. 25,8 (2011): 1725-34. doi:10.1016/j.bbi.2011.07.229
  10. Calder, Philip C. “n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids, inflammation, and inflammatory diseases.” The American journal of clinical nutrition vol. 83,6 Suppl (2006): 1505S-1519S. doi:10.1093/ajcn/83.6.1505S
  11. A.P. Simopoulos. Evolutionary aspects of diet, the omega-6/omega-3 ratio and genetic variation: nutritional implications for chronic diseases. Biomedicine & Pharmacotherapy, Volume 60, Issue 9, 2006, Pages 502-507, ISSN 0753-3322. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.biopha.2006.07.080

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Can Medium Chain Triglycerides be Used for Weight Loss?

When it comes to nutrition, new trends pop up every year, and tons of new information along with them. How are you supposed to weed through all the information about new health trends, as quickly as they come (and sometimes go)? 

Medium chain triglycerides, also commonly known as MCT, are all the rage right now. But what are they, and why do people think that they’re important for health? One reason is because there has been some indication that MCTs may play a role in weight and fat loss. Before we dive into this health trend, let’s first take a closer look at MCTs. What are they? How do they act in the body?

Medium Chain Triglycerides

Essentially, medium chain triglycerides are a type of fat found in palm, coconut oil, and some dairy sources. These sources of MCTs are processed through a technique called fractionation. Fractionation means that MCT oil is separated from the rest of the plant to use as an individual dietary supplement. 

They’re a bit different from the majority of fat we typically eat in our diet, long chain triglycerides (LCTs). LCTs have long carbon chains (greater than 12 carbon molecules in a row), and need to be digested and broken down before they can be absorbed and transported throughout the body. However, MCTs are short enough (between six and 12 carbon molecules long) to be directly absorbed. They are quickly transported to the liver to be used for immediate energy. 

Because MCTs are absorbed a bit differently, they have a higher thermal effect in the body compared to LCTs. Basically this means that the body works harder to process this nutrient, and burns more calories in order to do so. As a result, MCTs are slightly lower in calories, about 10-15% lower than other fat sources. 

MCT Uses 

MCT oil has some pretty specific uses. Because it doesn’t need to travel through the digestive system for breakdown and absorption, it is often used to supply calories and essential fatty acids to those with absorption issues. This may include individuals who have inflammatory bowel disease, like Crohn’s or Ulcerative Colitis, or who have shortened digestive tracts. [1] It also may be beneficial for those at risk or living with cardiovascular conditions, as MCT has been shown to decrease LDL cholesterol (the bad cholesterol) and increase HDL cholesterol (the good cholesterol). [2] 

It has been thought that because MCTs are metabolized differently than LCTs, they may affect our health a little differently. Aside from benefitting certain health conditions, the use of MCT is expanding drastically. Let’s take a look at one specific use of MCT that is being explored – weight loss.

MCT and Weight Management

One reason why MCT oil has become so popular is due to its suspected role in weight management. Sounds great, right? Let’s highlight the available research to see if this is a MCT fact or fiction. 

The relationship between MCT and weight is largely due, in part, to the way that MCT affects our appetite. Some small studies have shown that intake of MCTs may play a role in appetite suppression, meaning that they can help us stay more full, longer. This has been shown to be true in a few studies where a few of the hormones involved in appetite suppression, leptin and peptide YY, were elevated after intake of MCT oil. Additionally, individuals who consumed MCT oil reported more satisfaction and feelings of fullness three hours after a meal compared to those without MCT oil.  [4-5]

There have also been studies to observe that MCT oil was more effective than olive oil in participants who were attempting to lose weight. Not only were those taking MCT oil more successful in their weight loss goals, but they also had greater fat loss. [6] This was also observed in another study, in which men who supplemented MCT oil experienced greater fat loss compared to men who supplemented with LCTs. However, fat loss occurred more significantly in those who began with a lower body weight compared to those who started the study with a higher weight. [7] It’s important to note that there are many other lifestyle factors associated with appetite and weight loss that may have also played a role in the outcomes of these studies. 

So, Should You Supplement?

So, should you take MCT for weight loss? While the current research on MCT is interesting, it’s certainly clear that MCT isn’t a magic solution for weight loss. Other factors, like diet and exercise, must be considered. However, there is evidence to support that supplementing with MCT could add some small, additional benefit to weight loss attempts and appetite control. On top of all that, MCT is an easily absorbed source of essential nutrients, and also appears to have an impact on improving cholesterol levels. 

Luckily, our Complete Collagen+ is formulated with MCTs, along with Algal DHA (Omega 3 Fatty Acids), and Vitamin E! Give it a try, risk free, with our 180-day money-back guarantee!

Citations

  1. Cabré, Eduard, and Eugeni Domènech. “Impact of environmental and dietary factors on the course of inflammatory bowel disease.” World journal of gastroenterology vol. 18,29 (2012): 3814-22. doi:10.3748/wjg.v18.i29.3814
  2. St-Onge, Marie-Pierre et al. “Consumption of a functional oil rich in phytosterols and medium-chain triglyceride oil improves plasma lipid profiles in men.” The Journal of nutrition vol. 133,6 (2003): 1815-20. doi:10.1093/jn/133.6.1815
  3. Cardoso, Diuli A et al. “A COCONUT EXTRA VIRGIN OIL-RICH DIET INCREASES HDL CHOLESTEROL AND DECREASES WAIST CIRCUMFERENCE AND BODY MASS IN CORONARY ARTERY DISEASE PATIENTS.” Nutricion hospitalaria vol. 32,5 2144-52. 1 Nov. 2015, doi:10.3305/nh.2015.32.5.9642
  4. R. Kinsella, T. Maher, M.E. Clegg. Coconut oil has less satiating properties than medium chain triglyceride oil. Physiology & Behavior, Volume 179, 2017. Pages 422-426, ISSN 0031-9384
  5. St-Onge MP, Mayrsohn B, O’Keeffe M, Kissileff HR, Choudhury AR, Laferrère B. Impact of medium and long chain triglycerides consumption on appetite and food intake in overweight men. Eur J Clin Nutr. 2014;68(10):1134-1140. doi:10.1038/ejcn.2014.145
  6. St-Onge, Marie-Pierre, and Aubrey Bosarge. “Weight-loss diet that includes consumption of medium-chain triacylglycerol oil leads to a greater rate of weight and fat mass loss than does olive oil.” The American journal of clinical nutrition vol. 87,3 (2008): 621-6. doi:10.1093/ajcn/87.3.621
  7. St-Onge, M-P, and P J H Jones. “Greater rise in fat oxidation with medium-chain triglyceride consumption relative to long-chain triglyceride is associated with lower initial body weight and greater loss of subcutaneous adipose tissue.” International journal of obesity and related metabolic disorders : journal of the International Association for the Study of Obesity vol. 27,12 (2003): 1565-71. doi:10.1038/sj.ijo.0802467