Understanding the Importance of Omega 3 and Omega 6

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Understanding the Importance of Omega 3 and Omega 6

Omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids are essential for your body to work properly and to take care of your overall health. Each of these fatty acid has a different role in keeping your body performing at its absolute best. Omega-3 and omega-6 are two types of polyunsaturated fatty acids. They both are necessary for the body to function, but have opposite effects when it comes to the cardiovascular health and inflammatory response. Too much omega-6 and too little omega-3 are the root cause for many diseases in modern society.

Source of Omega-3 Fatty Acids

The most important types of omega-3 fatty acids are alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA). We need to get our daily dosage of omega-3 from food, as it is an essential fat, which means it cannot be  produced by the body on its own. Omega-3 fatty acid is found in abundance in fish or fish oils. Also, wheat germ, fresh fruits and vegetables, olive oil, garlic, flax seed, walnuts and canola oil are excellent sources of this fatty acid.

Omega-3 Benefits

This essential fatty acid has shown to reduce the incidence of heart disease, as well as a number of other illnesses or conditions. Omega-3s slows down the growth rate of plaque in blood vessels, help prevent irregular heartbeats and decrease the risk of heart attack due to blood clots and lowers blood pressure. It may also lower blood serum triglyceride levels, which is quite beneficial for people who have diabetes mellitus.

Omega-3 fatty acid plays a crucial role in maintaining the normal brain function and is important for its growth and development too. It supports brain development during infancy and helps maintain healthy brain throughout life. Omega-3 DHA is a vital component of brain and nerve tissue, and is essential for brain and eye development.

  • It also enhances hair and skin growth.
  • Clinical studies have reported that oral fish oil supplementation is beneficial for rheumatoid arthritis patients and asthmatics.
  • Dietary supplementation with flax seed oil is known to lower blood pressure in dyslipidaemic patients.
  • Omega-3 supplementation helps in many other diseases, like breast cancer, colon cancer and irritable bowel disease. There is still a long list of ailments that can be relieved from omega-3 fatty acid.

Omega-3 Side Effects

However, side effects can occur with omega-3 supplementation in spite of its many benefits. So, it is always recommended consulting a physician before consuming any supplement.

Bleeding: Individuals with bleeding disorders or who take blood-thinning medications must be cautious while taking omega-3 supplements, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center (UMMC). Medline Plus, a website of the National Institutes of Health, says omega-3 fatty acids increase the risk of bleeding and high doses have been associated with bloody urine and nosebleeds.

Intestinal Discomfort: “Circulation,” a magazine of the American Heart Association, published an article in 2003 about omega-3s. According to the report, intestinal discomfort, a bad aftertaste and  nausea  are common side effects of omega-3 supplements. Some other intestinal side effects of omega 3 are diarrhea, acid reflux, burping, heartburn, abdominal pain and bloating.

Hypotension: Multiple studies have shown that omega-3 supplements can cause abnormally low blood pressure or hypotension. High Blood Sugar: According to the UMMC, fish oil supplements high in omega-3s can cause blood sugar to shoot up and interact with diabetic medications that lower blood sugar. Medline Plus says, current evidence does not suggest any long-term effects on blood sugar. Still, diabetics should consult a physician before taking any supplement.

Allergy: Fish oil supplement is a rich source of omega-3s, but people who are allergic or sensitive to fish should not take them, as it can cause rash, abnormal liver function and psychological disorders.

Difference between Omega 3 and Omega 6

Linoleic acid is the primary omega-6 PUFA found in the diet. Linoleic acid is an essential fatty acid, which is converted to arachidonic acid (AA) which is another type of omega-6 PUFA. Both Arachidonic acid (AA) and EPA serve as precursors to an important group of signaling molecules known as the eicosanoids.

Eicosanoids derived from AA (omega-6 PUFA) aggravate inflammation and can also increase the intensity and duration of pain and fever. While the eicosanoids derived from EPA are what gives omega-3 PUFA its anti-inflammatory properties. The balance between these two types of eicosanoids is thus clearly associated with your body’s inflammatory response. Inflammation increases in response to the increase in the ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 FA in your diet.

Maintain a healthy diet that includes all the above mentioned recommendations. Take fish oil supplements to make sure that your daily omega-3 fatty acid intake is adequate enough. Avoid eating too much meat, which raises the level of omega-6 in your system instead try to maintain the balance.

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