Understanding Omega 3 and Omega 6
Posted on April 23 2020
Fats are of three main varieties: Saturated Fats, Unsaturated Fats and Trans Fats.
Within the Unsaturated fats there are monounsaturated fats and polyunsaturated fats. To learn more about FATS and their importance please visit Nature of Fats.
Polyunsaturated fats known as PUFAs (Poly Unsaturated Fatty Acids) are essential fatty acids that are required for many essential functions and for organ health in the body. These PUFAs cannot be biologically produced by our body. They must be obtained externally either from the diet or nutraceutical supplementation which in today’s times is now available.
Within PUFAs there are Omega 3 and Omega 6 being the two main families of PUFAs. The Omega 3 family is primarily described as ALA or Alpha Linolenic Acid and the Omega 6 family is primarily described as LA or Linoleic Acid.
The body converts these parent fatty acids into longer, more unsaturated varieties. The metabolic pathways describe the process by which fatty acids from your diet, such as the ‘parent’ essential fatty acids LA and ALA, are gradually converted into other longer chain and more unsaturated fatty acids. Your body uses various enzymes to either lengthen (the elongases) or insert more double bonds (the desaturases) into the molecules. Upon the successful completion of this process of lengthening the parent fatty acids, the resulting PUFAs for example are EPA (Eicosapentaenoic Acid) DHA (Docosahexaenoic Acid) and GLA (Gamma Linolenic Acid).
EPA and DHA are the most important ones concerning brain and eye function. GLA is most effective for hydration and maintaining elasticity for the skin, weight loss and hormonal health during PMS and Menopause. All three are very effective for decreasing inflammation. For this conversion process the body relies on delta-6-desaturase enzyme. However, various factors can interfere and inhibit the role of this enzyme, which over time ultimately can lead to lower levels of these key essential fatty acids.
Evidence not only suggests that the efficiency of these enzymatic pathways is often poor throughout a variety of healthy populations, but should the role of the enzymes be inhibited in some way, the pathway may become blocked. For example, it is thought that heavy consumption of processed cooking oils and margarines may interfere with the role of delta-6-desaturase, which can be involved in converting omega-6 LA into GLA, or omega-3 ALA into GLA.
Other factors that decrease the efficiency of the enzymatic pathways to convert Omega 3 to its longer more unsaturated derivates include high alcohol intake, caffeine, smoking, ageing, excess cholesterol, excess saturated fats, high sugar consumption and a deficiency in vitamins and minerals such as zinc, chromium and pyridoxine (Horrobin 1981;Lee, Ikeda, & Sugano 1991; Mahfouz, Johnson, & Holman 1980; Voss, Reinhart, & Sprecher 1992; Warensjo, Ohrvall, & Vessby 2006).
Sources for the Omega 3 family primarily ALA can be found in dark, green leafy vegetables, certain nuts and seeds. The Omega 6 family or LA can be found in nuts, sesame and sunflower seeds, vegetable oils and processed foods. EPA and DHA are directly available from Marine Fish Oil and DHA also from Marine Algae.
Other than your diet, consuming a good quality Nutraceutical from your trusted brand is just as important today and the reasons for this become clearer when we appreciate how the body metabolises essential fatty acids and how our choice of dietary intake can damage our own internal conversion pathways.
Marine Fish Oil
The essential Omega 3 PUFAs from the ALA family after conversion into the longer chain derivatives are known as EPA, Eicosapentaenoic Acid (20:5n-3) and DHA, Docosahexaenoic Acid (22:6n-3). Marine fish oil is beneficial because it naturally contains rich amounts of these very essential “elongated” Poly Unsaturated Fatty Acids. This is the reason why eating oily marine fish is so essential for good health, immunity and longevity.
Not all fish are the same. The primary types of marine fish potent in Omega 3 EPA and DHA are Anchovies, Sardines, Mackerel, Herring, Tuna and Salmon. These are found in certain areas of ocean waters to which they are endemic.
A significant pure, clean and sustainable source for cold water wild crafted Anchovies are off the coast of Peru and the Peruvian Government is very sensitive to their environment and the amount of fishing that is done in its ocean waters each year so as to maintain a healthy population of the wild Anchovies. This is one of the best sources across the globe for getting high quality Omega 3. This is the very marine fish oil contained in Nature’s Digest products such as Omegaswift Hi-Strength Omega 3-6-9.
As the parent fatty acids described in more detail in Understanding Omega 3 and Omega 6, being ALA and LA share the same pathway for metabolism, excessive intake of bad fats such as the pro-inflammatory Omega 6 found in refined vegetable oils or Trans Fats found as hydrogenated vegetable oils or partially hydrogenated vegetable oils in packaged foods and margarines, can compete within the body for the resources for desaturation into their derivatives (EPA, DHA and GLA) and hence lead to lesser levels of good ones (Mahfouz, Johnson, & Holman 1980).
A source of EPA and DHA being marine fish oil consumed either as part of your diet or by supplementation bypasses the delta-6-desaturase enzyme for lengthening and conversion as it is in itself a direct input of EPA and DHA. As a side note, evening primrose oil is an excellent source of the omega-6 fatty acid, GLA.
This is what makes supplementation a simple solution. Nature’s Digest provides high-grade formulations of specific fatty acids required at a later stage of the metabolic pathway directly in its Brainswift for Adults and Kids and Omegaswift Hi-Strength Omega 3-6-9 supplements. Taking these supplements will ensure you get a direct input of these vital nutrients.
Everything we do is based on scientific fact. From understanding the formulation of essential fatty acids to how the body works, we take every piece of research into account before we formulate at optimum dosages that is both efficacious and economical in value to dose ratio for you.
The benefits of EPA are:
Hair and skin – EPA and DHA can give skin and hair cells greater fluidity and flexibility. The skin’s cutaneous permeability barrier is maintained, helping to prevent trans-dermal water loss that results in dry skin (Ziboh & Chapkin 1987).
Circulatory system – EFAs (Essential fatty acids such as PUFAs) are important in oxygen transfer, red blood cell production, and control of nutrient passage through cell membranes. EFA’s may help maintain a healthy heart (Tavazzi et al. 2008).
Mind and Nervous system – About 30% of the dry weight of the brain and eyes are comprised of EFAs. EPA is thought to play a prominent role in the function of the established brain, via the creation of chemical messengers that influence cellular communication. Beyond the first establishment of the brain structures and interconnections of neurons in the central nervous system, Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids can influence brain function throughout life by modifications of neuronal membrane fluidity, and thus the activity of membrane-bound enzymes, number and affinity of receptors, function of neuronal membrane ion channels, and production of neurotransmitters and brain peptides. A supply is crucial for retinal and brain cell function (Eilander et al. 2007).
Endocrine system, Digestive System and Musculoskeletal system – There is also some evidence to suggest that EFAs may also have a role to play in helping maintain a healthy hormonal balance, gastrointestinal tract and musculoskeletal system (Burrin & Stoll 2002;Watkins et al. 2007).
Reproductive system – Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids are rapidly incorporated into the nervous tissue of the of retina and brain during the brain’s growth spurt, which mainly takes place from the last trimester of pregnancy up to 2 years of age. Because of low dietary intake of LCPUFA, there is great concern about a possible insufficient supply of LCPUFA during late prenatal, early postnatal stages and the first years of infancy that may affect cognition.
Pregnancy – DHA is important during pregnancy and early infancy for brain and eye development. EPA is crucial from early childhood and throughout life, possibly impacting on brain function. Mainly DHA, PUFAs are rapidly incorporated in the nervous tissue of retina and brain during early development (Marszalek & Lodish 2005). In order to assure an optimal provision of PUFAs throughout child development, supplementation with DHA, should start in a prenatal stage. Therefore, pregnant women should be supplemented in late pregnancy, so that optimal amounts of PUFAs are provided to the foetus through the umbilical blood, Continuing supplementation of post-weaning children has been shown to support and accelerate the brain development of children and increase their mental capacity (Richardson & Montgomery 2005; Ryan & Nelson 2008; Sinn & Bryan 2007).
Our Supplements for older children such as Brainswift contain EPA well as DHA and this can be taken by pregnant women as well especially in late pregnancy and post delivery during breast feeding, because both mediate physiological responses that may positively influence brain function.