Dosage and Side Effects
The recommended amount of omega-3 for an adult is about 450mg of EPA and DHA per day, which is the equivalent of one or two portions of fish per week.
Deficiency in omega-3 can result in dry skin, poor concentration, joint pain, weight gain, and eyesight problems whereas too much omega-3 can affect how long you bleed when injured.
Omega-6 Fatty Acids
Like omega-3, omega-6 is a polyunsaturated, fatty acid that is essential to our diets, and therefore we need to eat them. Omega-6 plays a large role in the health of the body’s cells, as well as growth and maintenance. There are four main omega-6 acids; Gamma-linolenic acid (GLA), Arachidonic acid (ARA), Linolenic acid (LA), and Conjugated Linolenic acid (CLA).
These omega-6 fatty acids can be found in numerous foods meaning it is rare to be deficient in it; in fact, due to how available they are in our diets, they are often over-consumed.
The issue when it comes to omega-6 is getting the balance right between it and omega-3. Early humans were thought to consume a 1:1 ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 whereas, in today’s world, it’s closer to 10:1 or even 20:1 for some people.
The overconsumption of omega-6 can cause many health issues but that isn’t to say it doesn’t come without its benefits when the balance is right.
Stimulate Hair Growth
As well as being beneficial to hair health through its ability to provide nourishment, omega-6 is also thought to help improve thickness by stimulating growth and controlling water loss. In addition, it also helps to keep the scalp healthy and improves skin condition.
Relieves PMS Symptoms
For some women, the pain and irritation caused during menstruation can be excruciating. Some studies have found the omega-6 found in evening primrose oil can reduce the severity of PMS pain and other symptoms.
Natural Sources of Omega-6
Omega-6 fatty can predominantly be found in plant-based foods, although they do occur naturally in animal sources. They can be found in abundance across a variety of processed foods such as cakes, cookies, and cooking oils, so it is important to choose healthy sources where possible.
Animal-Based Omega-6 Sources
- Goose/Duck fat
Plant-Based Omega-6 Sources
- Wholegrain bread
- Vegetable oil
Dosage and Side Effects
Most people already get enough omega-6 in their diets, often consuming more than is required. Instead, increasing the consumption of foods rich in omega-3 is recommended.
Deficiency in omega-6 can lead to problems with your liver and kidneys, depression, skin dryness, and issues with your immune system. Whereas overconsumption of omega-6 can result in a variety of stomach issues (diarrhoea, indigestion, loss of appetite etc) as well as possibly raising triglyceride levels in the blood and causing inflammation.
Omega-9 Fatty Acids
Different to omega-3 and omega-6, omega-9 is a monosaturated, fatty acid that isn’t classed as an essential due to the body being able to produce it. Our bodies use omega-3 and omega-6 to produce a small amount of omega-9, and it is found in plentiful supply in the foods we eat. There are four main types of omega-9 fatty acids; Oleic acid, Mead acid, Erucic acid, and Nervonic acid.
It plays very similar roles in the body to omega-3 and omega-6, sharing similar benefits and sources.
Omega-9 shares many of the health benefits of both omega-3 and omega-6, such as lowering blood pressure, cholesterol, and helping to clear plaque from arteries. There are other benefits possibly linked to omega-9 consumption.
Help Prevent Metabolic Syndrome
Metabolic syndrome is a cluster of conditions that occur together (10). The conditions include high blood pressure, high blood sugar, and abnormal triglyceride levels which could explain why omega-9 fatty acids may help with this condition.
Boosts Energy and Enhances Mood
One study found that reducing the ratio of saturated fatty acids to monounsaturated fatty acids affected the amount of energy used for physical activity as well as improving mood (11). It concluded that the oleic acid used during the trial was associated with an increase in physical activity, the participants having more energy and reduced anger.
Improves Immunity and Allergies
The anti-inflammation benefits of omega-9 mean it may help improve the body’s immunity, reduce inflammation and have a positive effect on those suffering from allergies. It has been suggested that those with low levels of omega-9 may be at a higher risk of developing a problematic allergy at some point in their life.
Natural Sources of Omega-9
Omega-9 is primarily found in olive oil; however, it does appear in a few animal-based sources as well as many other plant-based sources. Plant-based omega-9 sources are also affected through cooking so, where possible, it is best to consume them uncooked.
Animal-Based Omega-9 Sources
- King prawns
Plant-Based Omega-9 Sources
Dosage and Side Effects
There is no recommended amount for omega-9, with around 2-3 tablespoons of olive oil being a rough guide to the daily dose. It is the most common fat within our bodies, so supplementation isn’t needed if a balanced diet is followed.
There can be health issues related to the overconsumption of omega-9, especially erucic acid – this includes weight gain.
The Optimal Balance Between Omega-3, 6, and 9
Over the years, the balance between the amount of omega-3 and omega-6 we consume has changed, mostly due to the food industry and foods high in omega-6 being easy to include in our diets. Where previously, humans were consuming about equal quantities of both, we’re now consuming almost 20 times more omega-6 than omega-3.
The optimal balance should aim to return to those levels to promote good health. Consuming more foods rich in omega-3 such as oily fish, eggs, nuts, and seeds while trying to reduce the processed sources of omega-6 such as cakes, biscuits, and fast food. Instead, choose more natural sources like whole grains, nuts, and seeds.
If the balance between omega-3 and 6 is right, then there is nothing to worry about regarding omega-9 as the human body can create it and it is found in all the foods previously listed.