Omega 3, 6 and 9
Omega oils are found in 3 different categories, named omega 3, 6 and 9. Omega 3 and 6 oils can’t be made in the body, and are therefore vital in the diet. Omega 9 oils can be made in the body but are still important in the diet. Omega 3, 6 and 9 oils vary due to their structure, and each type also has further sub-types.
The three most common types of omega 3 fatty acids are known in short as: DHA, EPA and ALA. Dietary intake of DHA and EPA is mostly commonly through seafood, whereas the best source of ALA is from seeds. The best source of DHA and EPA, however, is through algae, as explained below1-3.
DHA is the main structural component of the brain, skin and retina and is therefore vital in brain function and development4.
The main function of EPA is in the production of a group of compounds called eicosanoids. These compounds are involved in the reduction of inflammation5. Double-blind, placebo controlled trials have even shown EPA to help reduce the symptoms of depression6.
ALA has many benefits in the body, including a reduction in inflammation and for improving heart health7. It is also converted to EPA and DHA but with limited efficacy, showing why all 3 oils are essential in the diet8.
DHA and EPA are found in fish, and ALA is common in many seeds such as chia and flax seeds. The omega 3 oils found in fish are not actually synthesised by the fish themselves, but by the algae they eat9. Due to the risk of micro-plastic and mercury poisoning from fish, Vitbox has chosen to source DHA and EPA omega 3 oils directly from algae, creating a safer and more sustainable omega 3 supplement1-3.
Research has shown that most western diets do not contain enough omega 3, and are consumed in an unnatural ratio to omega 6s. A high omega 6/3 ratio is very common in the western diet and has been linked to many common diseases such as cardiovascular disease, cancer and inflammatory and auto-immune diseases10. This is partly due to the over consumption of omega 6s, found in abundance in processed foods, and a low consumption of omega 3s, traditionally consumed through fish. Read this article for more information!
Omega 6 oils are mostly used for energy. The most common omega 6 oil is linoleic acid, used to make another omega 6 fatty acid called ARA, which is similar to EPA in that it is used to produce eicosanoids. But ARA produced eicosanoids are used to increase an inflammatory response, important in many processes across the body. However, many western diets are far too high in omega 6s, possibly increasing the chances of cardiovascular, inflammatory and auto-immune diseases11.
Omega 9 fatty acids are found abundantly in most cells in your body. Your body can make omega 9 fatty acids, so they are not essential in the diet. However, various studies have shown the benefits of an omega 9 rich diet, such as reducing unhealthy cholesterol in diabetes patients12.
Overall, we at Vitbox believe that omega 3 supplementation is important, which is why all of us here take one! The western diet typically contains a very high omega 6 : omega 3 ratio, linked to many serious health implications(citation). Increasing your omega 3 intake can improve this ratio but, as mentioned earlier in this article, fish oils can contain toxic mercury and micro-plastics1-3. Vitbox’s vegan omega 3 supplement is obtained the same way in which fish obtain their omega 3, through algae, creating a safer and more sustainable supplement!
- The Chemical Form of Mercury in Fish. (Harris, 2003)
- Occurrence of microplastics in the gastrointestinal tract of pelagic and demersal fish from the English Channel. (Lusher, 2015)
- Marine microplastic debris: An emerging issue for food security, food safety and human health. (Barboza, 2018)
- Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and the developing central nervous system (CNS) – Implications for dietary recommendations. (Guesnet, 2011)
- Omega-3 Fatty Acids and Inflammatory Processes. (Calder, 2010)
- EPA but not DHA appears to be responsible for the efficacy of omega-3 long chain polyunsaturated fatty acid supplementation in depression: evidence from a meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. (Martins, 2009)
- Update on alpha-linolenic acid. (Stark, 2008)
- Conversion Efficiency of ALA to DHA in Humans. (DHA EPA Omega-3 institute)
- Cutting Out the Middle Fish: Marine Microalgae as the Next Sustainable Omega-3 Fatty Acids and Protein Source. (Moomaw, 2017)
- The importance of the ratio of omega-6/omega-3 essential fatty acids. (Simopoulos, 2002)
- The importance of the omega-6/omega-3 fatty acid ratio in cardiovascular disease and other chronic diseases. (Simopoulos, 2002)
- High-monounsaturated-fat diets for patients with diabetes mellitus: a meta-analysis. (Garg, 1998)