Omega-3, omega-6 and omega-9 are all polyunsaturated fatty acids. Among the three omega-3 and omega- 6 are called as the essential fatty acids. Essential fatty acids are those that cannot be produced by the body and is required to be supplied through diet. Omega-9 is called a non-essential fatty acid because they can be produced in the body from other unsaturated fats present in the food. All 3 fatty acids have the basic structural component of carbon, hydrogen and oxygen, but they differ in their molecular make-up and presence of single or double bonds between the atoms. The names omega- 3, 6, 9 is based on the position of the double bonds in their molecular structure.
The difference between omega 3, 6,9
Omega- 3: Omega-3 fats are called as essential fats and are considered the most important fat among the three. They are anti-inflammatory and they have significant role in maintaining heart health. Their role is to counter the inflammatory effect of omega-6 fats. The three main types of omega-3 fats are alpha lionolenic acid (ALA), eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). ALA is the primary omega-3 fat and human body poorly converts this to EPA and DHA.
Dietary sources of omega-3
ALA: Plant- based foods pumpkin seeds, walnuts, flax seeds, hemp seeds etc.
EPA: Cold water fatty fish, shell fish, eggs.
DHA: Certain types of cold water fish, micro-algae and sea weed.
Omega- 6: Omega- 6 is also called as essential fats and perform vital functions in the body. They are pro-inflammatory and are necessary for normal function of the immune system. Omega-6 fats balance the anti-inflammatory effects of omega-3 in the body. An ideal omega 6 : 3 ratio of 1: 1 or 2: 1 maintains health and reduces the risk of most degenerative diseases. The primary omega-6 fats are linoleic acid (LA), gamma-linolenic acid (GLA) and arachidonic acid (AA). Omega-6 fats are abundant in everyday diet.
Dietary source of omega-6
Canola oil, sunflower oil, soy bean oil and corn oil.
Omega-9: Omega-9 is present in abundant quantities in our diet. They are basically the mono-unsaturated fats in our diet also otherwise called as the oleic acid. Omega-9 helps to lower cholesterol levels and aids healthy inflammatory reactions that support the immune system.
Dietary source of Omega-9
Macadamia nuts, pistachios, cashews, hazel nuts, olives, peanuts, avocados, sesame oil etc are good sources of omega-9.
It is crucial to maintain a balanced proportion of omega 3,6,9 for significant health benefits.