Whether you suffer from Anorexia, Bulimia, Binge Eating, Obesity, emotional eating, or have problems with weight management due to restricting or overeating, you need to know about what fats do in your body once and for all. In other words whether you are obese, underweight or a normal weight, if you are having problems regulating food intake in healthy ways, this series on fat is a must.
Omega-3, 5 & 6 fatty acids are poly-unsaturated fats while Omega-7 and Omega-9 fatty acids are mono-unsaturated fats. The name “Omega” indicates how far from the end of the molecule (i.e. the omega position is the last letter in the Greek alphabet) the first double bond occurs. In an Omega-3 fat it occurs on the third carbon atom from the end of the molecule, in an Omega-5 it occurs 5 from the end of the molecule and so on.
Polyunsaturated Essential Omega 6 Fatty Acids
Like Omega-3 Fatty Acids, Omega-6 Fatty Acids are also referred to as Essential Fatty Acids; i.e. fats that our bodies need them to function, but are not capable of producing. Omega-6s improve hair and skin health. Additionally, studies show that Omega-6s are associated with:
- Regulating pressure in the blood vessels, joints and eyes
- Transporting oxygen from red blood cells to tissues
- Managing proper kidney function
- Dilating or constricting blood vessels
- Regulating muscles and reflexes
- Positive effect on diabetes, arthritis and skin disorders
Good sources of Omega 6 Fatty Acids are:
- Olive Oil
- Flaxseed & Flaxseed Oil
- Chia Seeds
- Pumpkin Seeds
- Acai Berries
Balancing Polyunsaturated Essential Omega 6 and Omega 3 Fatty Acids
Omega-6 and omega-3 fats need to be eaten in balance. Americans consume far too many omega-6 fatty acids, and far too little omega-3 fatty acids. The ideal balance between Omega 6 and Omega 3 fatty acids would be 1:1. Experts estimate that Americans eat anywhere from 15:1 to 50:1 Omega 6 to Omega 3. So it isn’t the quantity of these polyunsaturated oils which governs the harm they do, but the relationship between them. Obesity, free radical production, the formation of age pigment, blood clotting efficiency, inflammation, immunity from disease, and level of energy are all responsive to the ratio of unsaturated fats to saturated fats. The higher this ratio is, the greater the probability of harm there is.
When they are out of balance, we are susceptible to disease, whereas when we maintain a proper balance, we maintain and even improve our health. Some research is beginning to show that omega-6s and omega-3s only have a beneficial effect if you consume balanced amounts of both, so this ratio is not something to ignore. Since the Western diet supplies plenty of omega-6, you will probably have to focus on increasing your omega-3s from the list above.
In our next blog post, we’ll be talking about Non-Essential Fatty Acids – Omega-5s, Omega-7s, Omega-9s
Dr. J. Renae Norton is a clinical psychologist, specializing in the outpatient treatment of obesity and eating disorders such as anorexia, bulimia, bulimarexia, and binge eating disorder (BED) and the Director of The Norton Center for Eating Disorders and Obesity in Cincinnati, Ohio. She is the Director of The Norton Center for Eating Disorders and Obesity in Cincinnati, Ohio.
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Medical Advice Disclaimer: The information included on this site is for educational purposes only. It is not intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. The reader should always consult his or her healthcare provider to determine the appropriateness of the information for their own situation or if they have any questions regarding a medical condition or treatment plan. Reading the information on this website does not create a physician-patient relationship. This information is not necessarily the position of Dr. J. Renae Norton or The Norton Center for Eating Disorders and Obesity.
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