A lot of commercials in the television nowadays promote foods that are high in omega 3. Basing from this constant public awareness of products that are rich in omega 3, the public (even those who do not have background in nutrition) can conclude that omega 3 is good for the health. How about omega 6? Is it good for the health also? What is the difference between omega 6 VS omega 3?
Before comparing both, it is best to describe first what is omega 3 and omega 6. Both omega 3 and omega 6 are essential unsaturated fatty acids. They are called “essential” fatty acids because they are needed by the body for normal metabolism but the problem is, the body could not produce both thus they should be taken from other sources such as from the foods that we eat. Both of them are unsaturated because they have at least one double bond in their fatty acid chain.
The difference between omega 3 and omega 6 can be divided into three. First is the difference in chemical makeup of both fatty acids. Second is their effect on one’s health and last is their source. It should be noted that these two fatty acids are good type of fats but like other nutrients or minerals, too much can be dangerous to the health. That is the reason why physician’s advice should be sought prior to taking any foods supplements that are high in omega 3 or omega 6.
Omega 3 fatty acids have a final carbon-carbon double bond in the n-3 position which is the third bond from the methyl end. There are three important types of omega 3 fatty acids and these are alpha linolenic acid (ALA), eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). On the other hand, omega 6 fatty acids have a final carbon-carbon double bond in the n-6 position which is the sixth bond from the methyl end. There are two important type of omega 6 fatty acids and these two are linoleic acid (commonly found in plants) and arachidonic acid (commonly found in meats).
Effect on the Body
Omega 3 is primarily known to be good for the heart. It actually has capability to protect the heart from cardiovascular diseases or injuries (such as myocardial infarction). It also has a mild hypertensive effect. There were studies conducted that provide good results when it comes to the benefit of omega 3 such as in the March 2007 issue of the journal “Atherosclerosis”, it concluded that those who took omega 3 have good blood flow in the heart and the thickness of their carotid artery improved. A research done by the American Heart Association also revealed that omega 3 decrease one’s risk for arrhythmia lowers triglyceride blood levels and lowers the built up rate of atherosclerotic plaque.
In addition, omega 3 fatty acids have beneficial effects on the brain and can reduce the rate of cancer cases. Studies show that omega 3 can affect the learning process and can alter the mood. This can actually help regulate the mood of people who are imprisoned thus reducing violence in the prison cell. Omega 3 also has some anti cancer effect particularly in colon, breast, and prostate. It can slow down the growth of prostate tumor, slow histopathological progression and increase the survival rate.
On the other hand, omega 6 has the opposite effect with omega 3. There are some who tag omega 6 as the “bad” type of fatty acid while omega 3 is the “good” type. However, it should again be noted that taking less amount of omega 6 that what is recommended can be detrimental to one’s health. There should be balance in everything. Omega 6 is known to cause inflammation whereas omega 3 reduces inflammation. Inflammation can cause a decrease in blood flow which is not good for the body. Also, omega 6 fatty acids have the capability to regulate hormones that increases cell proliferation and blood clotting.
Good source of omega 3 fatty acids are as follows: catfish, turkey, tuna, sardines, salmon, swordfish, greenshell, orange roughy, shark, king mackerel, egg, giant tiger prawn and lean red meat. When buying meat products, make sure that the meat came from a vegetarian animal so that the omega 3 content in the meats is high.
On the other hand, omega 6 can be found naturally in the human diet. There is no need to put any effort in finding good sources of omega six. Some of the good sources of omega 6 are nuts, seeds and vegetable oils which are found in snack foods such as cookies, crackers and sweets.
It has been said that omega 3 reduces inflammation while omega 6 promotes inflammation. If there is balance between the two, the body can sure maximize the beneficial effect of both. That is why dietary balance of both is well recommended. Imbalance can actually result to auto immune diseases, coronary diseases, asthma, cancer and neuro-degenerative diseases which are thought to stem from inflammation (high omega 6 and low omega 3).