The debate over omega-3 vs omega-6 fatty acids remains a topic of interest in nutritional circles as our dietary habits continue to evolve.
Omega-3 vs Omega-6
Omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids are closely related but have very different effects on the body.
- Omega-3 comes in 3 types – alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). ALA is found in vegetable oils, while EPA and DHA are found in marine oils (e.g., fatty fish).
- Omega-6 comes in 11 different types, the main ones being linoleic acid, gamma-linolenic acid, and calendric acid, among others.
- Omega-3 fatty acids are able to reduce inflammation, diabetes, and bone mineral density loss. They can also help with anxiety and various chronic diseases.
- Omega-6 fatty acids are necessary for proper brain function. They can also help treat rheumatoid arthritis and minimize symptoms of ADHD.
- An appropriate ratio of these two fats is 1:1, but in modern times, that ratio is often skewed to as high as 10:1 (omega-6: omega-3, respectively).
- Balancing these fats is essential for overall health and to prevent inflammation, as omega-6 can be pro-inflammatory.
- A balanced ratio ensures that your body’s enzymes are evenly distributed to metabolize both types of fats.
- According to NIH some of the best food sources of omega-3 fatty acids include walnuts, flaxseed, sardines, salmon, spinach, eggs, brussels sprouts, and chia seeds.
- Omega-6 fatty acids are in hempseed oil, flaxseed oil, seeds, nuts, grapeseed oil, and other vegetable oils.
- Modern diets tend to have far more omega-6 than omega-3 in your diet, which can lead to cardiovascular problems.
- People with conditions like diabetes, psoriasis, eczema or arthritis should be cautious when consuming too much omega-6.
Which is better?
Having an even blend of these two fats is ideal, but generally speaking, omega-3 fatty acids have more positive effects on the body. According to a 2019 study in The British Medical Journal, increasing omega-3, omega-6, or total PUFA has no effect on the management and treatment of type 2-diabetes.