Omega-3 and Omega-6 acids families

Omega-3 acids family

Omega-3 and Omega-6 acids families belong to the polyunsaturated acids group, so they have at least two double bonds between carbon atoms. The difference between them, expressed by the so-called omega number concerns the place, in which in the carbon chain, the first double bond occurs. And so, for Omega-3 – the first double bond occurs after the third carbon atom and analogically, in case of Omega-6, the bond can be found at the sixth carbon atom.

The most popular representatives of Omega-3 fatty acids family are:

ALA, i.e. alpha-Linolenic acid – the “progenitor” of the family – contained in linseed, linseed oil, walnuts and Brazil nuts, rapeseed oil, soya oil and green leafy vegetables, EPA, i.e. eicosapentaenoic acid and DHA i.e. docosahexaenoic acid. The two last acids are commonly found in oily deep-sea fish, algae and seaweeds.

Omega-3 influence on our health

The most essential to our health are EPA and DHA acids and eicosanoids from Omega-3 family. Humans can produce it by themselves provided that they intake fatty acid ALA before – the progenitor of Omega-3 family.  Our organism can produce EPA from ALA, DHA from EPA and Omega-3 eicosanoids from DHA. Theoretically, there exist a possibility of producing Omega-3 acids in our liver out of Omega-6 acids, but in practice our constantly undernourished and burdened with various toxins organism cannot deal properly with the change of the double bond position, which constitutes the key reaction in such a transformation.

Currently, more than 2000 scientific studies are being conducted that focus on Omega-3 influence on human organism. They show that lack of the proper quantity of Omega-3 acids in the organism is connected to the following diseases:

  1. emotional problems – depression, aggression, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD),

  2. metabolic problems – obesity, diabetes,

  3. cancers,

  4. mental problems – dyslexia, memory disorders, Alzheimer’s disease,

  5. circulatory system problems – heart diseases, atherosclerosis,

  6. immunological system problems – allergies, frequent inflammation tendencies,

  7. dermatological problems – eczemas, skin thickening, cracked heels,

  8. gastric problems – improper digestive juices secretion (regulated by prostaglandins),

  9. hormonal problems – hormonal imbalance,

  10. nervous system problems including sensory system defects (mainly because of unwieldy functions of neurotransmitters).

DHA role

DHA is especially important for proper brain functioning, as cerebral cortex is built in 60% on the basis of this fatty acid. Apart from this, DHA is essential for the whole nervous system (DHA is used to build neurotransmitters*). It thus influences among others mental abilities in the broadest sense. Moreover, it constitutes a building block in happiness hormones production (serotonin and dopamine). The research indicate that people suffering from emotional disorders and serious depressions have very low level of DHA in blood. As Mrs. Teresa Gallagher reminds on her website [www.borntoexplore,] one of the depression states medicine in ancient times was eating a stew made of animal brain, rich in Omega-3 fatty acids. EPA-DHA Balance

*The experiment was carried out on the two groups of rats subjected to training program. At the beginning, the rats were tested on the number of neuron synapses. Next, one of the group was fed in a traditional way – a diet poor in Omega-3, and the other group was supplied with increased doses of Omega-3 in their food. After one-moth training program, the synapse test was conducted again. It showed that the number of synapses increased significantly in the group fed by Omega-3 and this group also dealt better with the tests checking their progress.

EPA role

EPA conditions proper eicosanoids synthesis. Eicosanoids are biologically active molecules, called tissue hormones. They are freed from cell membranes, which in turn are built of phospholipids (which contain both Omega-3 and Omega-6). Eicosanoids are responsible for antithrombotic and anti-inflammatory activity, stop the creation of cancerous tumors and limit contractility of blood vessels.

Factors lowering Omega-3 level in the organism despite normal intake

Excessive intake of Omega-6 acids in relation to Omega-3 and alcohol use drastically exhaust the supplies of DHA, lack of vitamins and minerals facilitating our metabolism, such as group B vitamins – essential to proper biochemical changes, among others fats or vitamin E that secures all unsaturated acids from oxygenation after intake (specialists recommend that for 1 g of polyunsaturated fatty acid we should provide our organism with minimum 0.4 mg to 0.9 mg of vitamin E), age – in aging organism the activity of essential for proper enzymatic fat changes enzymes is lowered including D4 desaturase, which is crucial for proper synthesis of DHA and EPA acids.

Omega-6 in short

Omega-6 are apart from saturated acids and trans-isomers the most common fats in our current western diet, rich in vegetable oils, margarines, fast-foods fried in deep fryer etc. Stabilized R-Lipoic Acid 100mg 

Omega-6 have been qualified to the EFAs group, i.e. essential fatty acids, the ones that are essential for human organism and that it cannot produce itself. However, its common excess in our diet causes a problem.

A rich source of Omega-6 acid are vegetable oils: sunflower oil, soya oil and safflower oil.

Their surplus intake contributes to the increase of inflammation states in the organism. Numerous studies (including Budwig’s study) indicate that Omega-6 acids show cancerous impact, while Omega-3 successfully inhibit the development of cancer or even treat it.

EFAs can be divided into:

N-3 acids – mainly EPA and DHA contained in fish oils, which lower blood pressure, cholesterol, improve coagulation and work anti-atherosclerosis.

N-6 acids – mainly oleic acid, linoleic acid (LA), arachidonic acid (AA) and gamma-Linolenic acid (GLA).

Oils rich in EFAs are sunflower oil, soya oil, cottonseed oil, corn seed oil, linseed oil, pumpkin seed oil and olive oil. Especially vital and therapeutic qualities have GLA acid, which appears in primrose oil, borage oil and blackcurrant seed oil. GLA has regulatory-improving qualities in treating the following conditions:

  • endocrine glands functions disorders, obesity, diabetes, premenstrual syndrome,

  • immunological system disorders, recurring respiratory infections, chronic liver and digestive system inflammations, chronic skin diseases, such as eczema, acne, psoriasis, allergic and rheumatic diseases, arthritis,

  • lipid metabolism disorders, arthrosclerosis, hypertension, coronary artery disease or brain ischemia,

  • central nervous system disorders, children and adult hyperactivity disorder, initial treatment of multiple sclerosis.

About author



I am a graduate of the Physical Education course of Western University of Health Sciences. A lot of personal experience with dietetics and activities perfectly compliments my high-school knowledge.

I am the coach of the second class of canoeing. Instructor of swimming, gymnastics, athletics, and pilates. For 16 years, I have been practising canoeing - I have won many medals in international competitions.

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