• #7-3. Omega 3-6-9: Key fatty acids


    Promoting fetal brain development

    The fetal brain develops rapidly in the third trimester and it helps for a pregnant woman to ingest sufficient amounts of omega 3 at this stage. Increasing omega 3 supplementation in the third trimester of pregnancy is known to help cognitive function and motor development of the infant. It is also known to prevent pre-term birth.


    Other benefits

    Omega3 strengthens the immune system and promotes ossification by osteoblasts as well as bone strength. It improves memory and cognitive functions and learning abilities. It has been associated with alleviating the symptoms of depression and bipolar disorder, and is particularly beneficial in menopausal depression. It also helps alleviate the symptoms of schizophrenia and promote cognitive functions in dementia.

    Omega 3 is also known to help presbyopia. It lowers the risk of macular degeneration, an age-related eye disorder. Omega 3 helps fight obesity by activating metabolism. Omega 3 has also been reported to inhibit the metastasis of cancer cells.


    Precautions with ingesting omega 3

    As with everything, taking too much omega 3 because of its benefits would not be wise. Excessive oral intake of omega3 can cause intestinal inflammation. The most important aspect to watch out for with omega3 ingestion is the heavy metal poisoning. Ocean fish may be contaminated with heavy metal. I advise checking the manufacturer label and avoid buying unusually low-priced omega 3 products.

    Hyperingesting omega3 while on anti-hypertensive therapy runs the risk of severe hypotension and caution is advised in such cases. The Canadian health authority recommends 1,800mg as the daily intake of omega 3. Generally, commercial omega3 products are available in 500mg or 1,000mg capsules. I recommend taking omega 3 supplements twice a day.


    The balance between omega 3 and omega 6

    Unsaturated fatty acids with a double bond are usually present in plant oils, which are also generally known to be healthy. Unsaturated fatty acids have a low melting point and maintains a liquid form in the body. It contains little cholesterol. Unsaturated fatty acids are essential for healthy cell functions. Adequate supplementation of unsaturated fatty acids helps prevent dementia and cardiovascular diseases as well as help maintain skin elasticity. Deficiency of unsaturated fatty acid inhibits release of digestive enzymes, thereby causing digestive disorders and frequent nasal and oral inflammation.

    However, it does not help to just ingest a high amount of it due to the known benefits. It is more important to have a balanced amount of omega3 andomega6 for optimal health benefits, as omega3 and 6 have opposing properties. Omega3 inhibits inflammation and thrombosis and lowers blood cholesterol levels. On the other hand, omega6promotes inflammatory response and promotes blood coagulation. It triggers inflammatory response to fight intruding bacteria and helps hemostasis in case of hemorrhage.

    The right ratio between omega 3 and omega 6 varies in different countries. Based on the Korean nutrition standards, 1:1 to 1:4 is the right ratio between omega 3 and omega 6. The US health authorities recommend 1:4.

    However, the reality is very different. A nutrition survey in the US found that Americans take 20 times as much omega 6 as omega 3. In Korea, the ratio is 1:11 in men, 1:7 in women and 1:14 in elementary school children.

    Omega6activates only in the presence of omega3. Excess omega6 remains in the blood. This residualomega6 binds with oxygen radicals to throw the immune system off balance and triggers inflammatory response. Chronic and repeated inflammatory response can cause many serious illnesses such as heart disease, diabetes, metabolic disorder, dementia, and cancer, etc. In particular, omega 6 in chemically processed vegetable oil can cause various chronic illnesses.


    Gamma-linolenic acid(omega6)

    Based on the above information, one may think omega 6 is bad for health.However, one should understand that omega 6 found in processed foods is unhealthy and another form of omega 6, gamma-linolenic acid, is an essential substance for human health. It is usually found in plant seed oil and can be synthesized from ingested linolenic acid (omega 3).

    Like omega 3, gamma-linolenic acidhelps maintain the healthy blood cholesterol level and promotes blood circulation. Combined EPA with gamma-linolenic acid can enhance the cholesterol controlling action.Gamma-linolenic acid prevents excess hemostatic action by other types of omega 6. It is also an important component of neuronal membrane. Gamma-linolenic acid is an essential health supplement due to its excellent and various benefits. The recommended daily dose is 200mg, however, the dose should be doubled in diabetics.



    Omega9 generally refers to oleic acid which is found in common cooking oils such as olive oil, canola oil, sunflower seed oil, grape seed oil, and safflower seed oil, etc. Oils rich in omega 9 were used in the past to resolve the imbalance betweenomega3 andomega6. Omega9 acts to improve elasticity of the cellular membranes and promotes excretion and helps clear the skin. Oleic acid, one of the most well-known omega 9 fatty acids, lowers cholesterol level, especially LDL cholesterol to prevent progression of atherosclerosis. Olive oil is rich in vitamin E and carotin. Oleic acid has a 20 times higher polyphenol (potent antioxidant) content than vitamin C as well as 30 times higher squalene (anticancer agent) content compared to other oils. Oleic acid oxidizes more slowly thanomega 3 andomega6, making storage much easier. Excess intake of omega 9 alone is not beneficial. It would be most beneficial to maintain the right balance between omega 3 and 6 as well as using omega 9-rich cooking oil.



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    -To be continued-

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