Omega-3 and Omega-6 Fatty Acids: 5 Incredible Benefits of Essential Fats You Need to Know
Dietary fat has been getting a bad rap lately, and some of its infamous reputation is well-deserved. For example saturated fats and in particular trans fats are especially bad for health. However, certain fats are indispensible to the proper functioning of the human body, and, as such, completely removing fats from one’s diet can prove quite hazardous.
The human brain is around 60% fat, fall short on EFA’s and you could well find your brain health suffering, not to mention the loss in absorption of fat soluble vitamins such as vitamin K. Good fats are also known to support the production of anabolic hormones such as testosterone, in fact, you can find some great info on how fat’s can help increase testosterone here: 19 Breakthrough Ways Proven To Increase Testosterone (NATURALLY).
It is therefore of utmost importance that we are able to distinguish between “bad” fats, which are also called “saturated fats” due to their chemical composition, and “good” fats, which are referred to as “unsaturated fats.” Meat, seafood and dairy products are all sources of saturated fat. Even some plant foods, such as palm and coconut oil, also contain it. There are several different “flavours” of unsaturated fats, for example, polyunsaturated & monounsaturated.
Essential Fatty Acids (EFAs) are a particular type of “good”, unsaturated fats. Although the body can synthesise most of the fats it needs from other dietary fats, it simply cannot do the same for these particular two essential fatty acids; linoleic and alpha-linoleic. Thus they are appropriately named “essential” and can only be acquired solely from food. In turn, they contribute to the building of two well-known healthy fats called omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, both of which fulfil vital functions for the body.
Omega-3 and Omega-6: The Ratio
Over the past couple of decades, the two essential fatty acids have firmly grasped the attention of both nutritionists and consumers. Studies testifying for their benefits immediately followed, and so did the dietary supplements that were supposed to ameliorate any deficiencies.
However, the fact that omega-3 and omega-6 must be assimilated in a precise ratio of 1:4 remained largely ignored. In fact, a person consuming the typical Western diet is likely to be deficient in omega-3, but overly saturated with omega-6, displaying a ratio between 1:10 and 1:50. This can also lead to a number of chronic diseases, which is why it is paramount to achieve a balance between the two essential fatty acids in order to benefit from their positive effects on health.
5 Incredible Benefits Of Essential Fats
Once an appropriate ratio of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids is reached, the latter manifest several incredible health benefits. These include the following:
1. EFAs Reduce Weight And Waist Circumference
Several studies have suggested that fish oil, which is rich in essential fatty acids, can increase insulin sensitivity, the breakdown of body fat (or lipolysis) and the use of fat as a primary energy source. In addition, some EFAs were shown to decrease lipogenesis or body fat formation. Combined with the potential of omega-3 acids to decrease the amount of bad cholesterol circulating in the body and accompanied by a healthy exercise routine, EFAs can offer a significant helping hand to any dieter.
2. EFAs Contribute To a Healthy Heart And Cardiovascular System
Essential fatty acids increase the levels of HDL or good cholesterol, thereby decreasing the levels of LDL or bad cholesterol. In addition, they help reduce triglycerides, a type of fat found in the bloodstream that is similar to cholesterol and equally harmful for the cardiovascular system in large quantities. Studies performed on patients who consumed fatty fish such as salmon, trout or mackerel found that high blood pressure and the formation of arterial plaques may also be prevented with the help of ETAs.
3. EFAs Fight Against Inflammation Throughout The Body
Inflammation is a term that refers to a complex biological response on the part of the immune system when the body is exposed to harmful stimuli. Sometimes, it can even occur without the presence of necessarily dangerous catalysts and become a harmful phenomenon in itself, which is why chronic inflammation is often referred to as the silent killer. The anti-inflammatory properties of EFAs are enormously beneficial in terms of chronic diseases associated with this symptom.
4. EFAs Support Mental Health And Might Prevent Dementia
Another common benefit of essential fatty acids is related to cognitive processes. Diets rich in EFAs have been shown to prevent the on-set of memory decline in old age, as well as the overall deterioration of brain function. Despite the fact that more studies need to be conducted in terms what the exact impact of Omega-3s might be in connection to dementia, there are enough studies pointing towards the manifold advantages of changing one’s diet to include more oily fish.
5. EFAs Are Vital For A Healthy Pregnancy And More
Mothers should pay special attention to the amount of EFAs consumed during pregnancy, especially since having adequate levels of these substances in one’s diet is clearly associated with improved neurodevelopmental outcomes in the child. Low or no seafood consumption during pregnancy has been correlated with suboptimal cognitive performance in children. What’s more, diets that contain the necessary amounts of EFAs were also positively linked to better health in terms of bone density and even asthma symptoms in early life.
Two unsaturated fatty acids are absolutely essential, in the sense that the body can only obtain them from food. These are linoleic acid (LA) and alpha-linoleic acid (ALA). However, each of the latter two features an additional two derivatives, which are equally important, but not considered essential because they can be synthesized from LA and ALA. Nevertheless, it is preferable and more efficient to obtain them from food rather than through synthesis. You may be wondering why I haven't mentioned omega-9 fatty acids. For sure these are great for your health but unlike the omega 3's (LA & ALA), omega 9's can be metabolised within the body from other omega's and are therefore non-essential.
- On fish oil and weight loss or weight management: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4646500/
- On fish oil and cardiovascular health: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17490962
- On fish oil supplementation and a reduction in triglycerides: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18774613; https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21924882
- On fish oil and the treatment of systolic hypertension: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26817716
- On EFAs and depression: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18640689
- On EFAs and mental health: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20124114
- On fish consumption and the amelioration or prevention of dementia: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17413117
- On EFAs and infant brain development: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18789910
- On EFAs and the amelioration of inflammation: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16841861
- The classification of fatty acids and their roles in the human body: http://biomed.papers.upol.cz/pdfs/bio/2011/02/03.pdf