Omega 3 and Omega 6 – Essential Fats Introduction

Omega 3 and Omega 6 – Essential Fats Introduction


Sunflower Oil
Sunflower Oil

n my previous posts about Fats here I introduced the concept of saturated and unsaturated fats. Part of the family of unsaturated fats are Omega 6 and Omega 3 Fatty Acids, these belong to the polyunsaturated group of fats. In this post I explore these two ‘essential fatty acids’ further.

Omega 6 Fatty Acids

Typically found in vegetable oils, these fatty acids have caused controversy in recent times after being linked with causing inflammation in the body and possibly contributing to cancer.

“dietary patterns very high in omega-6 PUFA may promote breast cancer development” Emily Sonestedt – International Journal of Cancer

Linoleic acid (LA) and arachidonic acid (AA) are both sub types of Omega 6 Fatty acids which are significant.

However, no cause for alarm, these fats are still essential but it is important that you also consume plenty of Omega 3s with your 6s. Please read entire post.

Omega 3 Fatty Acids

Most commonly found in fish oils. Consumption of Omega 3 Fatty Acids may help to reduce the risk of heart disease. Studies have also suggested they may have a positive action on cancer rates.

“We found that omega-3 fatty acids reduced prostate tumor growth, slowed histopathological progression, and increased survival, whereas omega-6 fatty acids had opposite effects…” Isabelle M. Berquin et al

Alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) are the different subtypes of Omega 3 which are significant.

Omega 3/6 Food Sources

The following food sources contains particularly high levels of Omega 3 and Omega 6.

Omega 3 Omega 6
Salmon Sunflower Oil
Flax Seed Vegetable Oil
Chia Seed Non Free Range Meat
Spinach and other Green Veg
Pumpkin Seeds

What Diet Should I Follow?

Consensus is beginning to be formed that we should try and balance Omega 3 and Omega 6 consumption to an equal as ratio as possible.

“very high omega-6/omega-3 ratio, as is found in today’s Western diets, promote the pathogenesis of many diseases, including cardiovascular disease, cancer, and inflammatory and autoimmune diseases” The Center For Genetics

The reasoning behind this is that both Omega 3 and Omega 6 compete for the transport systems in the body, so a high ratio means that a higher level of inflammatory chemicals in our bloodstreams than anti-inflammatory chemicals.

However, it is not easy to follow a diet with a low ratio. Typical Western diets contain a ratio of at least 20 to 1. For example, sunflower oil has a ratio of 180:1, so you can begin to understand how difficult this may be.

In a future post I will explore a bit more how we can ‘balance the books’… To be continued.