Each of us has heard about the triad of omega acids, but many myths have arisen around these famous acids. In this article, we will take a closer look at the types to which we share omega acids and their role in the body.
Omega-3, -6 and -9 are currently supplements among the ones most often purchased by people who care for health, they are overcome only by the compounds of multivitamins and minerals and calcium supplements. Although the word “acids” usually has negative connotations, and omega-3, -6, -9 belong to the fatty acid family, their intake is mostly related to the good things themselves.
Like all fatty acids – they are made of long chains of carbon, hydrogen and oxygen. They are distinguished only by having double bonds between selected carbon atoms. Thanks to this, they are included in the unsaturated fatty acid family, because saturated acids do not have such double bonds. This small detail makes a huge difference to their usability.
Omega-3s belong to the polyunsaturated fatty acid family, which means that they have not one but many double bonds. Omega-3 are also called Essential Fatty Acids (EFAs) because our bodies are unable to produce them. We must deliver them to the body along with the diet, or supplement them with appropriate supplements.
The most important omega-3 fatty acids include:
– alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), which has 18 carbon atoms in the chain
and 3 double bonds;
– eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), which has 20 carbon atoms
in the chain and 5 double bonds;
– docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), which has 22 carbon atoms and 6 double bonds.
Where to find them?
Although all three belong to one family, they differ significantly in their place of origin. ALA is found mainly in plant products such as linseed oil, rapeseed oil or nuts. However, EPA and DHA can be found in animal products, especially in oily marine fish such as mackerel, salmon and herring.
Consumption of omega-3 fatty acids has a huge impact on health. They improve the work of the cardiovascular system, lowering the risk of ischemic heart disease and reducing the risk of atherosclerotic plaques. A diet rich in omega-3 helps reduce the risk of developing selected types of cancer, supports eye development and the brain, while protecting against Alzheimer’s disease.
These fatty acids are also polyunsaturated and have several double bonds in their structure. The main omega-6 fatty acids include:
– linoleic acid (LA), having 18 carbon atoms and 2 double bonds;
– gamma-linolenic acid (GLA), having 18 carbon atoms and 3 double bonds;
– arachidic acid (AA), having 20 carbon atoms and 4 double bonds.
Where to find them?
Omega-6 acids are found primarily in products such as eggs, sunflower oil, rapeseed oil, red meat, poultry, nuts.
Among the omega-6 varieties, a special distinction is played by gamma-linolenic acid, which in the studies shows the properties of hypertension reduction, the risk of some types of cancer and the improvement of skin condition. However, excessive consumption of omega-6 acids is possible and common, which has a negative effect on health.
Omega-9 acids are heard less than about the other varieties, because they have only one double bond and are classified into the monounsaturated fatty acid family.
Where to find them?
The main representative of omega-9 fatty acids is oleic acid, having 18 carbon atoms and 1 double bond. Oleic acid is found especially in olive oil, sunflower oil, nuts and avocado.
Although this type of omega is spoken less frequently, it still has many health benefits, especially when it comes to the cardiovascular system. Common practice says that omega-9 acids lower the level of total cholesterol, while increasing the “good” HDL fraction, which leads to a reduced risk of atherosclerosis.
Particularly high consumption of omega-9 acids can be observed in the Mediterranean region, where olive oil is an immanent element of many dishes. Despite high consumption of this fat, the incidence rate of coronary artery disease is historically low there.
Omega-6 to omega-3 ratio
Although both variants of these fatty acids seem to have a positive effect on our bodies, their poor diet may contribute to the degradation of health.
The standard diet in urbanized countries contains a definite excess of omega-6 from omega-3. Statistically this ratio is 20: 1 – however it is recommended to be 4: 1 or preferably 2: 1. Disproportion leads to excessive production of pro-inflammatory compounds and contributes to an increased risk of heart disease, cancer and arthritis.
To counteract this imbalance, the share of processed foods in the diet should be limited and abstention from deep fat frying. It is also worth starting to regularly eat fatty fish and adding linseed oil to salads.