Omega-3 vs Omega-6: Which Is Better?

Omega-3 vs Omega-6: Which Is Better?

Fatty Acids are an important component of lipids in animals, plants, and micrograms, these fatty acids are arranged in the form of long chains and they are made up of carbon and hydrogen atoms.

Many animals can not synthesize omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. Fatty acids form the structure of the cell membrane in a cell, these are required for cellular functioning. Recycling activity continues to produce more omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. So the regular food intake must contain a sufficient amount of essential fatty acids.

Essential fatty acids are synthesized by plants, the human body cannot synthesize these fatty acids. Hence plants are the real source of these essential nutrients in our diet. That is why these are some of the basic requirements of our daily diet.

In this article, we will compare the pros and cons of Omega-3 and Omega-6, so you can decide which one is best for you:

Omega-3

Omega 3 fatty acids also called omega 3 fats and n-3 fats are essential fatty acids. Since the human body can not make these from raw material so these must be part of the daily foods.

These are integral parts of the cell membrane and regulate the cell receptors in membranes. Foods that are rich in omega 3 are fish, vegetable oils, nuts, flax seeds, and leafy vegetables.

There are three main forms of omega 3s: EPA (Eicosapentaenoic acid), DHA (Docosahexaenoic acid) and ALA (Alpha-linolenic acid).

Omega-3 Pros

  • Helpful in treating depression and anxiety.
  • Omega-3s help in mood elevation and treat anxiety when they are taken in an adequate amount.
  • Useful for eye-related health care. They are a structural component of the retina so prevent its macular degeneration.
  • Decrease risk factors of heart disease. Omega-3s reduce triglycerides, blood pressure, and prevent the hardening of blood vessels. HDL(good cholesterol) levels also improve.
  • Reduce belly fat. Low levels of omega-3s are related to central obesity.
  • High levels of omega-3s are found to be helpful against autoimmune disease e.g type 1 diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, and Crohn's disease.
  • Also used to treat mental disorders. Psychiatric problems are associated with low levels of omega-3 fatty acids.
  • Studies reveal that omega-3s consumption reduces the risk of some cancers.
  • Reduce menstrual pain
  • Improve the sleep-wake cycle.
  • Good for skincare.

Omega-3 Cons

The following are the potential side effects of omega-3 if used excessively.

  • Unpleasant taste
  • Bad breath
  • Headache
  • Gastrointestinal disturbances
  • Diarrhea
  • Nausea
  • Taking more than 3gm of fish oil increases the risk of bleeding.
  • Higher risk of prostate cancer.

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Omega-6

Omega-6 fatty acids are important essential fatty acids. Their main function is to provide energy to the body when sugar reserves are depleted. Linoleic acids are the most common example here. Our body's body can convert it into long arachidonic acid. High quantities of omega-6s are present in refined vegetable oils and foods cooked in vegetable oils.

Omega-6 fatty acids are beneficial to human health as well as possess certain hazards too. Its harmful effects are due to the residual products after metabolism in the liver. Blood vessels and tissue of the heart are particularly affected if consumed in higher quantities.

Omega-6 Pros

  • The diet these days especially in developed countries has excessive amounts of omega-6s in it.
  • There are certain health benefits of these fatty acids if consumed within normal limits. They are healthy in a certain quantity.
  • Prevention from blepharitis
  • If omega-6 is consumed in moderate proportion then it can effectively regulate blood sugar level.
  • Less likely to have Diarrhea
  • Hypertension
  • Respiratory tract infections
  • It lowers the bad cholesterols such as Triacylglycerides and LDL.
  • A conversely omega-6 act to Increase HDL content in the serum. HDL is good cholesterol with immense benefits for maintaining a healthy lifestyle.
  • Because of its antioxidants properties, omega-6 has been used in the prevention of cancer.

Omega-6 Cons

  • Major side effects of fatty acid Omega-6 are related to its excess intake.
  • It is linked with increasing the risk of cardiovascular diseases in people who consume it in higher quantities.
  • If omega-6 is added to the diet plan of growing children then there is a risk of growth retardation or developmental delay.
  • Some studies have suggested its link with the progression of multiple sclerosis.
  • Omega-6 is unsafe in pregnancy. Although it is yet to be proven.
  • Patients with a history of "chronic obstructive pulmonary disease" suffer from breathing problems if they consume omega-6 fatty acids. It makes breathing even more difficult in such patients.
  • If consumed in high quantities then there is poor regulation of blood sugar level. So indirectly it potentiates the effects of diabetes mellitus.
  • Omega-6 directly raises the level of triacylglycerides after it goes through metabolism in the body.

How to Choose

Major differences in both?

  • Both are polyunsaturated fats and necessary for a balanced diet.
  • Major differences lie in their biochemical structure.
  • Omega-3s are obtained from fatty fishes, eggs, walnuts, soybeans, and leafy vegetables. Omega-6s are the essential ingredients of refined vegetable oil, Poultry, nuts, and processed food.
  • Processed and refined foods are rich in Omega-6 content hence more hazardous.
  • Omega-3s are more health-friendly fatty acids. They tend to reduce the risk factors of cardiac problems.

What is better for the general population?

  • Both omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids are essential fatty acids.
  • These fatty acids are more useful when taken in moderate proportion.
  • Better if these two are taken in combination such as omega 3-6-9.
  • This combination is more health-friendly as compared to when taken individually.
  • Processed foods contain Omega-6. The human body only produces omega-9. So there is no need to take supplements.
  • Omega-6 should be taken in very small amounts.
  • Fried foods and refined vegetable oil are the main sources where it is used. So it is advisable to avoid these foods in high quantities.
  • A thumb rule to use these essential fatty acids is to take omega-3 and omega-6 in very moderate quantities in our foods.
  • Food should contain omega-6 in lesser quantities because of certain health problems.

Final Verdict

Omega-3-6-9 are essential fatty acids. Because the human body can not synthesize these essential nutrients so one has to take it with daily diet and foods. Omega-3s if taken in large proportion are beneficial to human health. Whereas Omega-6s are also useful in maintaining proper fat balancing of the body. Scientists have been working on potential side effects of Omega-6 fatty but yet significant discovery has not been made.

Ideally one should avoid consuming foods that are rich in Omega-6. Foods such as refined vegetable oil and processed food are rich in this particular fatty acid. So one should avoid consuming these diets in higher quantities.

Instead taking a balanced diet rich in omega-3-6-9 should be the priority for a safe and healthy diet. In our normal diet, there is an adequate quantity of Omega-6, so there is no need to get supplements of these fatty acids.

Omega-3 and omega-6 are essential fatty acids. Both have different pros and cons. Ideally one should include these in his diet plan so that no deficiency is left. One can choose any of these two depending on his health status.

References

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