Not all of the “omegas” we read so much about are created equal. Omega-3, omega-6, and omega-9 fatty acids all have health benefits, but getting the right balance between them is crucial.
These three fatty acids have fundamentally different chemical structures. The “-3” in omega-3 refers to the position of the final carbon-carbon double bond; it is 3 carbons from the tail end of the molecule. Likewise, the final omega-6 double bond is 6 carbons from the end, and the omega-9’s one double bond is 9 from the end.
Omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids are polyunsaturated, meaning they have multiple double bonds. They are also termed essential fatty acids because the body cannot make them and relies on getting them from the diet. Omega-9s are monounsaturated, with just one double bond, and can be synthesized by the body.
Biochemistry lesson over! Let’s take a look at what these differences mean in terms of health benefits to you, and how you can make sure you get the omegas you need.
Omega-3s for your heart, brain, joints, and more
The omega-3 family encompasses a number of distinct fatty acids, each with its own key advantages:
EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid):
· Supports cardiovascular health
· Reduces joint inflammation
· Lowers cholesterol
DHA (docosahexaenoic acid):
· Boosts brain function
· Helps combat mood disorders
· Improves ocular health
DPA (docosapentaenoic acid):
· Repairs damaged vessels
· Optimizes Omega-3 intake
· Boosts absorption of EPA and DHA
Seal oil is one of the few natural sources of all three of these omega-3s—fish and krill oil, for example, while they are decent sources of EPA and DHA, do not contain DPA. ALA (alpha linolenic acid) is another omega-3, derived from plants, that the body can use to synthesize EPA and DHA, though this process is not very efficient.
Omega-3s are found in oily fish, seal, and breast milk. Because dietary sources of omega-3s are limited, supplementation is beneficial for almost anyone, at any age group. Because DPA—found in high levels only in breast milk and seal oil—optimizes the body’s intake of other omega-3s, it’s a real powerhouse.
Omega-6 for energy
Typical North American diets are rich in omega-6 fatty acids, providing an important source of energy. Like omega-3s, they are building blocks for cell membranes and precursors to other molecules, including hormones.
Omega-6s are also thought to be pro-inflammatory (while omega-3s are anti-inflammatory), which is essential to protecting the body from injury and infection—when in the proper balance.
Omega-6s are found in safflower, sunflower, sesame, soybean, and corn oil, as well as some nuts. Because most people already get enough omega-6s from the food they eat, supplementing with omega-6 is not usually required or recommended.
It is thought an ideal balance of omega-6 to omega-3 for humans is around 4:1; in the average North American diet, this ratio sits at about 16:1. This imbalance can lead to increased risk of heart disease, among other concerns.
Omega-9s: important, but not essential
Because the body can make omega-9 fatty acids, these are not termed essential. They are valuable, though: should your body experience a shortage of omega-3s and omega-6s, it can turn to omega-9s instead. Omega-9s will do the job—just not quite as well or efficiently.
Omega-9s are found in avocado, some nuts and seeds, and in olive oil and some other oils.
The right omega supplement for you
Combined omega-3-6-9 supplements are available on the market, but because most people consume more than enough omega-6, and can synthesize their own omega-9, these offer no value over an omega-3 source.
Seal oil is the most effective omega-3 supplement on the market, offering an ideally balanced and easily absorbed source of DHA, DPA, and EPA. These three omega-3s work together to ensure the proper functioning of the human body. Sourced from sustainably harvested seals from the pristine north Atlantic, Canadian seal oil is the right choice for you, your family, and the environment.