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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