Essential fatty acids (EFAs) are polyunsaturated fats that our bodies need but cannot produce. Therefore, they must be consumed through food or supplements. There are three types of EFAs: omega-3, omega-6 and omega-9. So what are the benefits to each?
In this post of ‘Ask an Expert’, we have put one of our most commonly asked questions to Stuart Tomc, CNHP, who is Nordic Naturals Global Educator and a leader on evidece-based dietary supplements.
“Stuart, what is the difference between omegas 3, 6, and 9?”
Omegas 3, 6 and 9 are important fats to integrate for good health. Each is essential in bringing different health benefits to the body and skin.
Omega-3 has two types of essential fatty acids – Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). Both have different functions in promoting optimal health. EPA supports heart health, immune function and joint comfort while DHA supports learning and memory, positive mood and eye health and function. Because our bodies do not produce omega 3, a diet rich in oily fish such as sardines, salmon, and cod should be considered. Two servings a week is recommended, although, people who eat fish regularly aren’t always getting enough omega-3 because much of the fish today is farmed and lacks significant amounts of essential fatty acids EPA and DHA. It is important to have meaningful amounts of EPA and DHA in a fish oil supplement.
The Omega 6 fatty acid GLA occurs naturally in evening primrose and borage oils and is known to help hydrate the skin, support healthy hair and improve skin barrier function in people with atopic dermatitis. It is important to note that although the typical Western diet contains excessive amounts of omega-6 (found in vegetable oils), which leads to inflammation, GLA may be an exception to this rule as a helpful omega 6 – if your omega 3s and 6s are in balance!
Omega 9 is not discussed as much simply because they are easily obtained in the diet, the body has an easy time making them. Omega 9 fatty acid naturally occurs in fish and is a major constituent of the Mediterranean diet and is a good-for-you omega-9 monounsaturated fatty acid. It supports healthy cholesterol levels and healthy blood pressure.