Omega 3 and Omega 6: Part 1

As you have probably gathered from the previous two posts: I try to keep up to date and write articles about things that people ask me a lot about in everyday conversation that I find myself in. One of the topics that comes up, again and again, is omega fatty acids. There is a lot of misleading information available and the term ‘Omega 3’ seems to be a buzzword on products such as eggs and I have seen it advertised on some plant milk also.

Benefits of Omega 3 series fatty acids

  • Essential fatty acids are important for brain function as the coating that surrounds the neurones in the white matter of the brain contains large amounts of them. They are implemented in coating the neurones to help signals travel faster in the brain.
  • Products from omega 3 fatty acids called resolvins are used to ‘switch off’ inflammation in the body.
  • Have been found when consumed in pregnancy to increase retinal and iq scores in offspring.
  • Implemented in reducing Alzheimer’s disease.

The essential fatty acid that we, as humans, struggle to get enough of is called docosahexaenoic acid (DHA for short). This is an omega 3 series fatty acid (there are several omega 3 series fatty acids), and it’s found mostly in fatty fish such as mackerel, salmon and sardines.

Now it is possible to make DHA from other shorter long chain polyunsaturated fatty acids (LCPUFAS), these are ALA and EPA. These shorter long chain polyunsaturated fats are found in things like flaxseeds and chia seeds (when soaked or ground). The problem here being that the traditional western diet is high in omega 6 fatty acids.  These compete with the same enzymes that ALA and EPA use to be converted into DHA. So a high relative intake of omega 6: omega 3 will reduce the conversion rate.

Some sources state that the conversion rate of ALA to EPA ranges from 8-20% and ALA to DHA as low as 1-9%, depending on lifestyle influences such as the previously discussed omega 3: omega 6 ratio.

The take away information from this is to reduce intake of foods high in omega 6, as these are over consumed in the western diet. While increasing intake of DHA rich foods or adding a supplement to your diet if you don’t eat fish, especially fatty fish such as salmon, mackerel and sardines etc. DHA rich algae supplements are vegan and available from online retailers.