Three… Six… and Nine

By:  Dr. Michelle Zarrillo

It may be common knowledge to some that people need essential fatty acids, but the why and how to apply the known need is a mystery to most people. Some people run from fat all together; some consume the wrong kind of fat. Neither extreme is correct. Essential Fatty Acids are known as Omega 3, 6, and 9. They are essential because we need them for health, but cannot produce them on our own. We must consume these fats through diet or supplementation.

Omega-3s are broken down into two main groups: EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid). Vast amounts of research has shown the health benefits of EPA and DHA, which include not only a healthy heart, but brain and cognitive function, joint mobility, eye health, pregnancy and lactation, healthy skin and hair, and a normal functioning immune system. Did you know that Omega 3 deficiency is the 8th leading cause of preventable death in the United States? There is more scientific evidence behind the cardiovascular benefits of fish oil than any other nutritional supplement. There is lots of new research that indicates that fish oils benefit brain function, especially memory and attention. It sounds like something America’s aging population needs. Many health issues, including back and joint pain are caused by inflammation. Fish oil, specifically Omega 3s, is anti-inflammatory. Along with back and joint pain, gastrointestinal issues are also associated with excessive inflammation.

Children have the most to gain from these essential fats. Children rely heavily on EPA and DHA for visual, brain and immune system development, and for normal emotional and cognitive function. Some research has shown the benefit of DHA for ADHD and autistic children, as well. Also, recent research has also shown that only 22% of children get adequate amounts of these essential fatty acids. For children, quality and purity are extremely important, as many fish oils contain mercury. Of all the supplements I give our children, their fish oils are THE one that we have noticed the biggest health impact from taking.

Omega-6 fatty acids are usually found in oils made from corn or soy. They are cheap to produce and truthfully, we have all been sold a faulty bill-of-goods that they are good for us. Yes, we do need Omega-6 fatty acids, but typical American diets have almost 20 times the amount necessary. The huge problem with this intake is that they are inflammatory. All of the conditions that Omega-3s heal…excess Omega-6s will evoke. If you EVER eat out or use any prepared foods, you will be consuming Omega-6 laden oils. The food pyramid encourages you to get your essential fatty acids from oils made from this cheap, unhealthy source…BEWARE. Some of these oils are proven carcinogens.

Our diets SHOULD have a 4 to 1 ratio of Omega-3 to Omega-6, but in America, even a 1 to 1 ratio would be outstanding. The only Westernized society that reaches that goal of 4:1 is the Japanese; they are considered one of the healthiest populations on the planet despite their extremely high rate of cigarette smoking. (I am NOT promoting cigarette smoking! 🙂 Also, as the Japanese take on a more Westernized diet, their health is mirroring Americans. The population of the United States consumes 19 times more Omega-6 fatty acids than Omega-3.

Omega-9 fatty acids are also necessary, but since they can be produced in small amounts in our body and are found in tons of plant and animal sources, they are easier to obtain. They do help with cholesterol, insulin and immune function but they play a smaller role. Omega-9 fatty acids are best gotten from macadamia nut oil, avocado and olives. They are the richest sources. Just eating an avocado every day will increase your intake of these important fatty acids.

It comes down to this: We need more Omega-3s and Omega-9s in our diets and almost no additional Omega-6 fatty acids.

As far as food sources are concerned, cold-water fish are high in Omega-3 fatty acids. Eat more fish and use a EPA/DHA nutritional supplement. Use olive, coconut, or macadamia nut oil. Don’t eat any extra Omega-6 fats and that means no corn, vegetable, soy, canola, grape seed or other vegetable oils. Striving toward health is not about decreasing our fat intake, but rather increasing our healthy fat intake.


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