Whats The Difference Between Omega 3 vs Omega 6?

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    We will explore the key differences between omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, as well as their health benefits and the ideal ratio to promote optimal health.

    Omega-3 and omega-6 are essential fatty acids that our bodies require for numerous processes. These polyunsaturated fats play a critical role in various physiological processes, including brain function, immune function, and cardiovascular health. While both omega-3 and omega-6 are important, they differ in their effects on the body.

    In this article, we will explore the key differences between omega-3 and omega-6, their respective health benefits, and the ideal ratio of these fatty acids to promote optimal health. We will also discuss the best food sources of omega-3 and omega-6 and provide tips for incorporating these essential fatty acids into your diet.

    What are Omega 3 Fatty Acids?

    Omega-3 fatty acids are a type of polyunsaturated fatty acid (PUFA) that plays a vital role in the functioning of our cells, including supporting healthy brain function, nervous system function, and heart health.

    The benefits of omega-3 fatty acids (EPA and DHA), found in fish oil, have been supported by repeated double-blind clinical trials.In 2004, In 2004, the FDA announced qualified health claims for omega-3 fatty acids, noting supportive but not conclusive research showing that consuming EPA and DHA omega-3 fatty acids may reduce the risk of coronary heart disease. Care/of’s fish oil supplement includes 200 mg of omega-3 fatty acids from EPA and DHA.

    What are Omega-6 Fatty Acids?

    Omega-6 fatty acids are the other type of polyunsaturated fatty acid and play a critical role in supporting the growth and development of our cells, as well as regulating various bodily functions, including immune response and blood clotting. Its ability to help promote blood clots is a critical aspect of healthy wound healing. In addition, omega-6s have been shown to help maintain healthy skin and hair.

    What is the Difference Between Omega-3s & Omega-6s?

    Omega-3 and omega-6 are both essential fatty acids that the body cannot produce on its own and therefore must be obtained through the diet. However, they have different chemical structures and functions in the body. Omega-3s are important for brain health and cardiovascular health. They also play a role in the growth and development of the nervous system, as well as in maintaining healthy eyes and skin.

    On the other hand, omega-6s play a role in regulating immune function and blood clotting. And both omega 3s and omega 6s are needed to maintain optimal health.

    When it comes down to these two fatty acids, the ratio of omega-3 and omega-6 is what is most important. Omega-3 is thought of as good, whereas omega-6s get a bad rap and are thought of as “bad,” but both are necessary for a healthy response. It is essential to maintain a balance between omega-3 and omega-6 intake to promote optimal health. The lower the ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 – the better. A ratio of 2-3/1 is considered desirable and has been shown to help maintain optimal health.

    Yet, in typical western diets, the ratio is closer to 15/1. This could be the reason why omega-6 gets such a bad rap, as the Western diet is boasting sources of omega-6, while omega-3s commonly get neglected. These ultra-high ratios of omega-6 to omega-3 are what have been shown to be correlated with potential negative health outcomes.

    Sources of Omega 3

    Since omega-3 fatty acids are not produced by the body, they must be obtained from external sources. The primary sources of omega-3s are found in certain types of fatty fish, such as salmon, mackerel, tuna, and sardines. For those who follow vegan diets or simply don’t like the taste of fish, there are also plant-based sources. Some of the best plant-based sources include flaxseeds, chia seeds, walnuts, and soybeans.

    To support heart health, the American Heart Association recommends consuming at least two servings of fatty fish per week, which provides an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids. Additionally, supplements are available for those who are unable to obtain sufficient amounts of omega-3s from their diet.

    It’s important to note that not all omega-3s are created equal. There are three different types of omega-3 fatty acids, including ALA, EPA, and DHA, which all have unique roles in the body. EPA and DHA are known to have the most health-promoting benefits.

    Each food source has differing amounts of these fatty acids. For instance, fatty fish is high in EPA and DHA, while plant-based sources, such as flax seeds contain ALA. However, ALA needs to be converted in the body to EPA and DHA, and the conversion process is not very efficient. Therefore, while plant-based sources can provide some omega-3 benefits, they may not be as efficient as fatty fish.

    Yet, Care/of carries a veggie omega-3 supplement that is derived from microalgae, which does contain EPA and DHA! This makes it a good option for those who follow a plant-based diet and are looking to achieve optimal levels of EPA and DHA.

    Sources of Omega 6

    Unlike omega-3, omega-6 is found in a wider variety of foods, and therefore it's generally easier to obtain through the diet. Some of the primary sources of omega-6 include vegetable oils, such as corn oil, soybean oil, and sunflower oil. These oils are commonly used in cooking and food preparation, making them a significant contributor to the typical Western diet. Other sources of omega-6 include nuts, seeds, and animal products, such as poultry and eggs.

    Are Saturated Fats Bad?

    Saturated fats are a type of dietary fat that is usually solid at room temperature. They are found in a variety of foods, including animal products like meat, dairy, and eggs, as well as in some plant-based oils like coconut oil and palm oil. Saturated fats have long been considered bad for heart health, but recent research has shown that not all saturated fats are created equal, and quality plays a significant role. For example, red meat contains saturated fats, but grass-fed meat can have higher levels of omega-3 fatty acids to help balance the ratio of omega-3 to omega-6 in the body. Butter from grass-fed cows and dairy from grass-fed cows also tend to have higher levels of omega-3s.

    Studies have shown that cows grazing on pasture and receiving no supplemental feed have 500% more conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) in milk fat than cows fed typical dairy diets. CLA is a type of healthy fat that has been linked to reduced body fat and improved metabolic health. The quality of saturated fats matters, and consuming saturated fats from high-quality sources may provide some health benefits.

    However, some types of saturated fats are considered less healthy, less nutrient dense, and should be limited in the diet or consumed in moderation. These include foods such as fried foods, baked goods, and processed snack foods.

    The Bottom Line

    Omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids are two major classes of polyunsaturated fats and are essential for maintaining good health. While both types of fatty acids are important, it is crucial to maintain a balance between the two. Omega-3 fatty acids play a critical role in supporting brain health and heart health, while omega-6 fatty acids help maintain healthy skin and hair, support the immune system, and promote healthy blood clotting. To maintain a healthy balance, it is important to consume a variety of whole foods, including fatty fish, nuts, seeds, and leafy greens. If you find it difficult to obtain enough sources of omega-3s in the diet, supplementation is a good way to bridge any gaps.

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    Dr. Carla Montrond Correia ND, CNS
    Medical Content Manager
    Dr. Montrond-Correia is a licensed naturopathic physician and a certified nutrition specialist (CNS). She holds degrees from University of Bridgeport, Georgetown University, and University of Saint Joseph, and supplemented her education with internships in the health and wellness space. She's focused on research, herbal medicine, nutrigenomics, and integrative and functional medicine. She makes time for exercise, artistic activities, and enjoying delicious food.
    Jordana Tobelem, RD
    Freelance Contributor
    Jordana Tobelem is a Registered Dietitian who enjoys helping others become the best versions of themselves through proper nutrition education. Jordana is passionate about promoting lifestyle changes through nutrition, physical activity, and behavior to create a superior quality of life. She uses her experience in the clinical field of dietetics to provide consulting services to an array of healthcare brands and companies. Jordana loves finding the most current research in nutrition to create meaningful content to share with her clients. Jordana has been a member of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics since 2018 and also holds certifications in both Personal Training and Health Coaching.