Fatty acids are important for biological functions such as vision and the nervous system. They are parts of different hormones and even necessary for gene expression. Omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids are essential fatty acids because your body is unable to make them and they only come from food. Very few foods have omega-3, 6 and 9 in them. Udo’s Oil is one example with its blend of all three fatty acid types.
There are different types of omega-3 fatty acids including alpha-linolenic acid, or ALA, eicosapentaenoic acid, or EPA, and docosahexaneonic acid, or DHA. DHA is an important part of eye cells and brain cells. Fish are the best sources of EPA and DHA. Several good fish sources are herring, salmon, sardines, trout and tuna. Sources of ALA include flaxseed oil, chia seeds, walnuts and canola oil. Research published in 2012 in the Journal of Lipid Research notes that high intakes of omega-3 fatty acids, especially EPA and DHA, have been linked to a lower risk of cardiovascular disease and lower fasting triglycerides. The American Heart Association recommends eating two servings of 3.5 ounces cooked fish or three-quarters cup of flaked fish each week.
Besides cardiovascular disease prevention, omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids are an essential part of cells. Eating more omega-3 fatty acids increases the omega-3 content of different cells, which can help improve cell function. DHA is also an important part of your eye and brain cells and may play a role in the development of the nervous system and vision. Different chemical messengers involved in the immune system are made from different omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3 fatty acids may also suppress genes involved in fatty acid synthesis. If you do not eat enough essential fatty acids, you may have a scaly rash, a poor immune system and wounds that take longer to heal.
Omega-6 fatty acids include linoleic acid, or LA, and arachidonic acid, or AA. The body makes AA, and it is not considered essential, however, the body is unable to make LA. Good sources of LA include safflower oil, sunflower seeds, pine nuts and pecans. A science advisory from the American Heart Association Nutrition Subcommittee has reviewed evidenced from numerous human studies and found that high plasma blood levels of AA were associated with lower levels of pro-inflammatory markers often associated with heart disease. LA may also help lower cholesterol. The Institute of Medicine’s Food and Nutrition Board recommends 17 grams a day of LA for men and 12 grams a day for women, however, the recommended intakes for AA have not been defined yet.
An example of omega-9 fatty acids is oleic acid. The Canola Oil Multicentre Intervention Trial, or COMIT, found that oleic acid lowered abdominal fat mass compared to other vegetable oil blends.In an interview in Today's Dietitian, Dr. Peter J. Jones, a professor of nutrition and food science at the University of Manitoba, states that oleic acid increases a molecule called oleoyleanolamide, which increases the amount of calories burned and suppresses appetite.
- Linus Pauling Institute: Essential Fatty Acids
- Journal of Lipid Research: Omega-3 Fatty Acid Supplementation and Cardiovascular Disease
- American Heart Association: Fish and Omega-3 Fatty Acids
- American Heart Association Science Advisory: Omega-6 Fatty Acids and Risk for Cardiovascular Disease
- The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition: Major Types of Dietary Fat and Risk of Coronary Heart Disease: A Pooled Analysis of 11 Cohort Studies
- Today's Dietitian: The Omega Fats