When we think of diet food one of the first things that come to mind is fish. Healthy, low in calories and enjoyed by many.
This meal is about to become much more appealing. Read on to find out why.
What is the difference between omega-3, -6 and -9?
Let’s get the basics straight. We know that fish contain super healthy omega oils. But, why do we need them and why are they numbered 3, 6 and 9?
Omega-3 and -6 are both essential fatty acids. This means that these fats can’t be produced by your body, so they have to come from your food.
Omega-3 and -6 are also polyunsaturated fats. We need to put on our science hats to explain the meaning of this one, as it has to do with the chemical structure.
Healthline explains that ‘poly’ means many, and ‘unsaturated’ refers to double bonds – these acids therefore have many double bonds.
A double bond is when two pairs of electrons are shared between the atoms of a molecule.
The numbers (3, 6, 9) refer to the final double bond in the chemical structure. In omega-3, for example, it’s three carbon atoms from the back end (omega) of the molecular chain.
Omega-9 is a nonessential fatty acid, meaning that your body can produce its own. It’s also a monounsaturated fat – there is only one double bond.
Enough with the chemistry. What can these fatty acids do for you?
Benefits omega fatty acids
Do see-through, yellowish and rather enormous capsules sound familiar? Omega-supplements are a staple in many households because we know they are good for us.
Let’s take a look at the benefits of each.
Even the tiniest chest pain throws most people into a panic. It’s worth it to take care of your ticker.
Omega-3s protect your heart in various ways, such as the following (not including poor relationship choices):
- They lower your blood pressure;
- Reduce blood clotting;
- Lessen irregular heartbeats;
- Decrease triglycerides. You need triglycerides to an extent, but in excess they can contribute to the development of heart disease;
- Decrease your risk of suffering heart failure or a stroke.
Your heart is not the only part of you that will benefit from omega-3:
- Some studies have shown that omega-3 can help fight depression and anxiety. The severity of symptoms have been shown to improve in some cases after the patient started taking omega-3 supplements.
- Omega-3 can reduce your odds of developing blindness from age-related macular degeneration.
- The symptoms of ADHD show improvement when patients are given omega-3 supplements
- Omega 3s are crucial for the healthy development of your unborn baby. They play a role in intelligence, social skills and can lower the risks of autism and cerebral palsy.
- Omega-3s can fight inflammation.
- Some evidence exists that omega-3s can help to keep your brain sharp against the effects of ageing, and combat the effects of Alzheimer’s disease.
- Omega-3s can help you get rid of liver fat. And no, fatty liver is not exclusive to those who abuse alcohol, obesity plays a role as well.
- Cancer prevention is another great reason to ensure you consume sufficient amounts of omega-3.
Omega-6 does not have the flawless reputation of omega-3, with some sources even claiming that your health could suffer from an excess of it.
It’s all about the ratio of omega-3 to -6 that you consume. Modern diets have seen an increase of omega-6 in this ratio, which can lead to obesity.
Other potential health risks include inflammation that can cause tissue damage, disease and worsening the symptoms of arthritis.
There are some experts that state that the above studies were inconclusive, and that omega-6 isn’t all bad.
According to Harvard Medical School omega-6 oils can lower harmful LDL cholesterol and boost protective HDL, as well as helping to regulate blood sugar levels.
The American Heart Association states that omega-6 is safe, and beneficial for the heart and circulation.
The aforementioned ratio is still relevant, but instead of cutting your intake of omega-6, you should increase your consumption of omega-3 for optimal health benefits.
Omega-9 is beneficial for cellular function, can prevent heart disease and stroke, is beneficial for your brain and can even improve your mood.
Omega oils for weight loss
You already know that your plate of fish and salad will help you to lose weight because it’s a low fat, low calorie meal.
But, even better news is that some evidence suggests that omega oils can aid in fat loss.
Some experts state that omegas do not have a direct effect on weight loss. Fish oils are more beneficial to fight the medical issues caused by obesity, they say.
Weight loss and an improvement of your health goes hand in hand, and plenty of foods that are rich in omegas, such as leafy greens and fatty fish, are part of a healthy weight loss diet.
In all honesty though, whether fish oils assist you with dropping a few kilograms directly or indirectly doesn’t really matter. What matters is getting rid of your rolls.
This is what was found in a few other studies regarding the effect of omega oils on weight loss:
- One study showed that fish oils can improve your thyroid function. An underactive thyroid can lead to a slower metabolism, and therefore, weight gain. If your thyroid is in fine, working condition, sufficient omegas in your diet can help to keep it that way.
- Omega-3 can help to build lean muscle, and its anti-inflammatory qualities can reduce the muscle pain you experience after a workout. The less you suffer, the more likely it is that you will keep up your exercise routine.
- Losing weight is a challenge because of how your body tends to conspire against you. When you start reducing calories and dropping the kilograms, your brain does its best to make you hungry. This has to do with survival – your body is preventing starvation. A meal that contains fish oils can help combat these intense hunger pangs and keep you from desperately reaching for something fattening.
- In some studies the results of dieters taking omega supplements were compared to those that took a placebo. In both cases participants adopted a healthier lifestyle, but those who were given the supplements managed to lose more fat.
- There are still those who are hesitant. We are talking about an oily, fatty substance, after all. Something we have always been taught causes weight gain.
As long as you keep things balanced, this shouldn’t be too much of a concern. Also keep in mind that there are good fats and bad fats.
Fats from fatty fish does not get stored as fat in the body. Your body instead takes the fat from the oil and uses it to provide the aforementioned benefits.
An interesting example is that the body uses omega oils to create a protective fat layer around your cells.
Sources of omega-3, -6 and -9
If you are getting slightly tired by now of reading about a healthy meal of fish and salad, it’s safe to say that you might get fed up with eating it too.
Here are some kinds of fish, as well as other sources of omega-3 and -6:
Omega-3: tuna, sardines, oysters, mackerel, caviar, trout, chia seeds, walnuts, flaxseed oil, soybean oil, canola oil, kidney beans, edamame beans, Brussels sprouts, spinach, broccoli.
Omega-6: walnuts, tofu, sunflower seeds, peanut butter, canola oil, eggs, avocado oil, almonds, cashew nuts.
If you are trying to lose weight, you have to keep in mind that foods with a high fat content are often stacked with calories.
Do not gobble down multiple spoonfuls of peanut butter, for example, thinking that the extra omega-6 will help you shed kilos.
Weight loss is always about balanced meals and overindulgence will almost always sabotage your efforts.
Omega-9, as we’ve seen, is not an essential fat as it can be produced by your body. Despite that, it is also present in various types of food, many of which also contain omega-3 and -6.
These include olive oil, almonds, cashews, walnuts, animal fat, fish and avocado.
Dangers of fatty acid deficiency
Essential fatty acids are called essential for good reason. A lack of them in your diet could leave you with the following unpleasant symptoms:
- A dry, scaly rash.
- You could experience hair loss and depigmentation (the latter refers to hair turning white or grey).
- Lifeless hair and brittle nails.
- Wounds may struggle to heal.
- You become more likely to develop infections.
- Children may experience stunted growth.
Should you take an omega oil supplement?
An American survey in 2012 found that fish oil was one of the most commonly taken supplements at that time, and no doubt they still fly off the shelves.
Research found that if you are healthy, at a low risk for heart troubles and you eat fish at least twice a week, there is no need to take a supplement.
Vitagene, sellers of health and wellness products, confirms that fish oils can facilitate fat loss. But they emphasise the importance of a healthy diet and exercise, and doctors agree.
If you decide to use supplements, the healthy way is not to fully rely on them. Remember, the healthy food that contains fish oils, also contains other vital nutrients.
Dr JoAnn Manson, professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School says that no dietary supplement is a substitute for a healthy lifestyle.
“Regular physical activity, a healthy diet and not smoking will reduce heart disease risk by close to 80%, and is really the main recommendation for heart health,” she says.
It’s not hard to put two and two together here. We know that a healthy diet and regular physical activity is the exact recipe recommended for healthy weight loss.
Risks you should know about
Omega oils are generally considered safe, but you can experience side effects if you consume too much of it.
Also be on the lookout for:
- If you suffer from diabetes, large doses of omega-3 can lead to raised blood sugar levels.
- If you have blood pressure problems, discuss your use of omega supplements with your doctor. An overdose could cause dangerously low blood pressure levels if you already have low blood pressure, and it could interact with blood pressure lowering medication.
- Some omega oil supplements also contain high levels of vitamin A, which is also damaging in large amounts. In severe cases you can even suffer serious damage to your liver in the long term.
- If you find yourself lying awake at night, you might want to reconsider your fish oil intake.
There isn’t much research to confirm this, but it is thought that an overdose can lead to insomnia.
The moral of the story is that you should never be tempted to take omega oil supplements in large amounts, thinking it will lead to increased weight loss.
It won’t, and you will just end up making yourself ill.
Omega-3, -6 and -9 are undeniably crammed with goodness, and there is enough evidence to suggest that it can aid you in getting rid of unwanted kilos.
What it is not, is a miracle solution to being overweight. You can’t get away from having to adopt a healthy lifestyle.
Ensuring that you get sufficient amounts of omega fatty acids is a huge part of healthy living. Remember to keep a balance in your food, don’t overindulge, and weight loss will follow.