Omega-3, -6, -9

Omega-9 AdvantageHealthier Profile • Omega-3, -6, -9

Omega-3, -6, -9 — How They Add Up

All fatty acids are composed of chains of carbon, hydrogen and oxygen atoms. The differences between fatty acids lie in the molecular configuration, producing differing health effects between fats.

Monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats are known by another name: omegas. There are three types of omega fatty acids: omega-3, omega-6 and omega-9. Omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids are two types of polyunsaturated fat. They are considered essential fatty acids because the body cannot manufacture them. Omega-9 fatty acids are from a family of monounsaturated fats that also are beneficial when obtained in food. Omega-9 Canola and Sunflower Oils are uniquely high in omega-9 (monounsaturated) fatty acid.

All omega fatty acids play specific roles in overall health. These good fats can have health benefits, including:

  • Prevent coronary heart disease
  • Prevent stroke
  • Prevent diabetes
  • Promote healthy nerve activity
  • Improve vitamin absorption
  • Maintain a healthy immune system
  • Promote cell development

There are several differences in the specific profile and effect on the body of omega-3 and omega-6 polyunsaturated fats and omega-9 monounsaturated fats. Learn more about these omega fatty acids below or at GoodFats101.com.

v What are omega-3 fatty acids?

Omega-3 fatty acids are a type of polyunsaturated fat considered essential for human health because the body cannot manufacture these types of acids. People must obtain omega-3 fatty acids from foods such as fish-, nut- and plant-based oils, including canola oil and sunflower oils.

What are the types of omega-3 fatty acids?

  • ALA, or alpha-linolenic acid, is an 18-carbon chain with three cis double bonds. The first double bond is located in the n-3 position or at the omega end of the fatty acid. Thus, ALA is considered a polyunsaturated n-3 (omega-3) fatty acid.
  • EPA or eicosapentaenoic acid is a 20-carbon chain with five cis double bonds; the first double bond is located at the third carbon from the omega end. DHA or docosahexaenoic acid is a 22-carbon chain with six cis double bonds; the first double bond is located at the third carbon from the omega end of the fatty acid.

What are the sources of omega-3 fatty acids?

  • ALA is found in flaxseed, canola and soybean oils, and walnuts.
  • EPA and DHA are found in fatty fishes such as herring, mackerel, salmon, tuna and trout.

What are the health benefits of omega-3s?

Omega-3 fatty acids correct imbalances in modern diets that lead to health problems. Eating foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids can help lower the risk of chronic diseases such as heart disease, stroke and cancer, as well as lower LDL or “bad” cholesterol.

A diet high in ALA helps reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke by lowering cholesterol and triglyceride levels, enhancing the elasticity of blood vessels, and preventing the build-up of harmful fat deposits in the arteries. In fact, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) has reported the majority of U.S. diets no longer contain the amount of omega-3 fatty acids needed by our bodies for overall health and wellness.

Diets high in EPA and DHA help with brain and eye development, prevent cardiovascular disease, and can help to prevent Alzheimer’s disease. For example, diets notably high in DHA have been known to protect against degenerative processes within the retina of the eye and increase the problem solving skills in 9-month-old infants.1 A 10-year study correlated increased intakes of DHA/EPA as consumed by various population sectors with relative risk of heart-related deaths. Those who increased consumption of DHA/EPA up to 664 mg/day were associated with an approximate 40% reduction in cardiovascular disease and a significant reduction in all-cause mortality.2 All infant formula is now supplemented with DHA.

v What are omega-6 fatty acids?

Omega-6 fatty acids are polyunsaturated fats, essential for human health because the body cannot manufacture them. People must obtain omega-6 fatty acids by consuming foods such as meat, poultry and eggs, as well as nut- and plant-based oils, including canola, corn, soybean, and sunflower oils.

What are the types of omega-6 fatty acids?

  • LA or linoleic acid is an unsaturated omega-6 fatty acid. It is an 18-carbon chain with the first double bond located at the sixth carbon from the omega end of the fatty acid. This position of the double bond is what classifies it as an omega-6.
  • GLA or gamma-linolenic acid also is an unsaturated omega-6 fatty acid with an 18-carbon chain. However, it differs slightly from LA, and is found in different food sources.
  • AA or arachidonic acid is a 20-carbon chain.

What are sources of omega-6 fatty acids?

  • LA is found in canola, corn, peanut, safflower, soybean and sunflower oils.
  • AA is found in red meat, poultry and eggs.
  • GLA is found in infrequently consumed vegetable oils, such as evening primrose oil; mostly delivered in nutritional supplements.

What are the health benefits of omega-6 fatty acids?

Most omega-6 fatty acids are consumed in the diet from vegetable oils, such as linoleic acid. Excessive amounts of linoleic acid can contribute to inflammation and result in heart disease, cancer, asthma, arthritis and depression.3,4

v Omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids: Striking the balance

Striking a balance between omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids in the diet allows both substances to work together to promote health. An improper balance or too much omega-6 fatty acid promotes inflammation and can contribute to the development of diseases such as coronary heart disease, cancer and arthritis.

According to the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, daily intake recommendations for omega-3s are 0.7-1.6 grams per day, depending on age and gender. Daily intake recommendations for omega-6s are 7-16 grams per day, depending on age and gender.

v What are omega-9 fatty acids?

Omega-9 fatty acids are from a family of unsaturated fats commonly found in vegetable oils. This monounsaturated fat is described as omega-9 because the double bond is in the ninth position from the omega end. Unlike omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, the body can produce omega-9 fatty acids, but they are beneficial when obtained in food.

What are the types of omega-9 fatty acids?

  • The primary omega-9 fatty acid is oleic acid. Oleic acid is commonly found in canola, olive and sunflower oils.

What are sources of omega-9 fatty acids?

Oleic acid is commonly found in oils, fruits, and nuts:

  • Oils: canola, olive, peanut, safflower and sunflower
  • Fruits: avocados and olives
  • Nuts: almonds, cashews, macadamias, peanuts, pecans, pistachios and walnuts

Omega-9 Canola and Sunflower Oils are uniquely high in monounsaturated fats and reduce key factors that contribute to heart disease and diabetes. Oils produced from these sources are healthier, highly functional replacements for partially hydrogenated cooking oils, which are laden with unhealthy trans and saturated fats.

What are the health benefits of omega-9 fatty acids?

Omega-9 fatty acids, commonly referred to as monounsaturated fatty acids, offer important health benefits. Research has shown that omega-9 fatty acids are protective against metabolic syndrome and cardiovascular disease risk factors. Because omega-9 fatty acids have been shown to increase HDL (“good”) cholesterol and decrease LDL (“bad”) cholesterol, they help eliminate plaque buildup in the arteries, which may cause heart attack or stroke.

A review paper published in the AOCS February 2011 Lipids5 journal assessed the current body of epidemiological and human clinical research and substantiated the cardioprotective value of omega-9 fatty acids. According to the review findings, increasing the consumption of omega-9 fatty acids, specifically as a substitute for saturated fat, provides beneficial health implications for cardiovascular disease, metabolic syndrome and overall health. Research in the review suggests using canola oil and canola-based spreads instead of common dietary fats would increase the percentage of North Americans complying with current dietary intake recommendations for fatty acids. The authors’ findings suggest novel dietary oils rich in oleic acid, such as Omega-9 Canola Oil, provide a healthful alternative to increase omega-9 fatty acids and reduce saturated fat in commercial food use.

Omega-9 Oils are uniquely high in monounsaturated fat, low in saturated fat and contain zero trans fat. In fact, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration recently approved a Qualified Health Claim for canola oil saying, “limited and not conclusive scientific evidence suggests that eating about 1½ tablespoons (19 grams) of canola oil daily may reduce the risk of coronary heart disease due to the unsaturated fat content in canola oil. To achieve this possible benefit, canola oil is to replace a similar amount of saturated fat and not increase the total number of calories you eat in a day.”

v How do they add up?

Although omega-3, omega-6 and omega-9 fatty acids all serve different functions within the body, the evidence is clear that incorporating balanced proportions of both essential and non-essential fatty acids are necessary for maintaining overall heart health and general wellness. According to a 2014 position paper on dietary fatty acids and human health from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, adults should receive 20 to 35% of energy from dietary fats, avoid saturated and trans (“bad”) fats and increase omega-3 fatty acids. The paper also states that the majority of calories from fat should come from monounsaturated fats and that these heart-healthy fatty acids should replace saturated fats when possible. These recommendations are based on the most up-to-date research available. To learn more about omega fatty acids, please visit GoodFats101.com.

1Dolecek, T.A. “Epidemiological evidence of relationships between dietary polyunsaturated fatty acids and mortality in the Multiple Risk Factor Intervention Trial.” PSEBM. 200:177-182, 1992.

2Lands, William E.M. (December 2005). “Dietary fat and health: the evidence and the politics of prevention: careful use of dietary fats can improve life and prevent disease.” Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences 1055: 179-192. Blackwell. doi:10.1196/annals.1323.028. PMID 16387724.

3Hibbeln, Joseph R. (June 2006). “Healthy intakes of n-3 and n-6 fatty acids: estimations considering worldwide diversity.” American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 83 (6, supplement): 1483S-1493S. American Society for Nutrition. PMID 16841858.

4Okuyama, Hirohmi; Ichikawa, Yuko; Sun, Yueji; Hamazaki, Tomohito; Lands, William E.M. (2007). “3 fatty acids effectively prevent coronary heart disease and other late-onset diseases: the excessive linoleic acid syndrome.” World Review of Nutritional Dietetics 96 (Prevention of Coronary Heart Disease): 83-103. Karger. doi:10.1159/000097809.

5Gillingham LG, Harris-Janz S, Jones PJ. Dietary monounsaturated fatty acids are protective against metabolic syndrome and cardiovascular disease risk factors. Lipids. 2011; 46(3):209-228.

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