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Understanding the Omega Family

You may already understand how important omega-3 fatty acids, but you might be unaware of the other important omegas, such as omega-6, omega-7, and omega-9.

Omega-6 fatty acids are polyunsaturated fatty acids usually found in vegetable oils, and soybean oils.

Omega-6 fatty acids are used to improve mental development or growth in infants, reduce heart disease, increase your good cholesterol levels (HDL), and reduce the risk of cancer.

Omega-7 fatty acids are found in the same superfood omega family. Omega-7 (also known as palmitoleic acid) is a monounsaturated fat that can be found in your body, as well as in plant and animal sources such as sea buckthorn (fruit), cold-water fish and macadamia nuts. Omega-7 can help aid in weight loss, prevent type-2 diabetes, improve cardiovascular disease, and boost collagen production.

Omega-9 fatty acids reduce cardiovascular disease, lower cholesterol levels, and promote the fight against certain types of cancer cells. Your body can produce omega-9s, but mostly they can be found in canola oils, olive oil, and peanut oil.

Even though individually these fatty acids seem amazing for your health, do you really need ALL of them?

Listen in as Dr. Mike discusses the lesser-known, yet equally important omega fatty acids.

RadioMD Presents:Healthy Talk | Original Air Date: April 27, 2015
Host: Michael Smith, MD

Healthy talk with Doctor Michael Smith MD and now, here's the country doctor with a city education, Dr. Mike.

DR MIKE: So, I was in Brooklyn, New York, recently and I was visiting some of the wholesalers that work with the Life Extension foundation and I have the privilege to traveling through the country and doing lectures and training sessions, you know, talking about the latest science and up and coming products. It's really a lot of fun and in this time of the year Brooklyn, it's New York. Everybody start to get out. The weather is getting...Well, they say it's getting warmer. For me, coming from south Florida it was cold, but for them it warmer. Things was starting to bloom and anyway so I was in one of the stores, and I was talking to store owner, really nice guy, and we just happened to be in the aisle where has all of his oil base products. So, like the Omega 3, flax seed, coconut oil, all that. And I noticed one of the products on the shelf. It's a popular product and it contains the 3 major Omega fats: Omega 9, Omega 6 and Omega 3.

And I asked him "How popular is that product?"

and he said it's one of his bestsellers which I found interesting, because, personally, and I'm going to explain why, but I don't think you need all that.

And I asked him, "Why do you sell that? I mean, what do you talk about with costumers when it comes to this product? What is it that you say?" And he said something interesting. He said that he positions this product as kind of like the most comprehensive, you know Omega product out there, because you get all three--9, 6 and Omega 3. You know, all in one.

And, you know, at that point I let it go, but I just thought that it would be a nice topic for us to discuss here on Healthy Talk about what exactly do you need when it comes to polyunsaturated fats? We know, these types of fats are incredibly important –the Omega fats. They are involved in a very complex, you know, metabolic processes that manage everything from inflammation, immune response, cell-repair, cell-regeneration. I mean, it's incredibly important.

But the question becomes, what do you really need when it comes to supplementation? Do you really need that what he called comprehensive product, the 9, 6 and 3? And it's my opinion that you don't. Let me explain why.

The first of all, the Omega 9 fat is sometimes known as the "parent Omega fat". It's considered "the parent" because it converts into, inside your body, naturally, into the Omega 6 and Omega 3. Omega 9, in and of itself, it does have some very important rolls in the body, but you don't really need to eat it or supplement it because your body can make it. As a matter of fact, it's not essential. Remember, that word "essential" means that my body can't, so it's essential that i get it from my diet. Well, Omega 9 is not essential. Your body can produce Omega 9 from saturated fats. And it does that pretty well. And then, from there the Omega 9 by itself, although it has some important roles in the body, it doesn't last very long because it quickly is converted into the, in my opinion, more important Omega 6 and Omega 3. And so, when it comes to supplementing with it, here's the problem. So, based on what I just said, you might think, "Well, okay, that might sound a really important, maybe I do need a supplement." Well, what we've learned is that when it comes to a supplementing with Omega 9, just because you're increasing the amount in your body doesn't necessarily mean that you make those conversions better. As a matter of fact, what we have found when you supplement with a lot of Omega 9, some of it will turn into the Omega 6 and 3, which is good, but a lot of it doesn't and it ends up, actually, turning, in some cases, into saturated fat. So, it may not be a great tradeoff for you and it's just probably not necessary.

Now, let's move on to Omega 6. That was the next Omega to in this product. The label actually says 9, 6, 3. So, the Omega 6, what are these? Well, Omega 6 is very important in the inflammatory process. As a matter of fact, the Omega 6 fat acids which are essential, you don't get them; you don't make them in your body.

You get them from your diet, the main one is linoleic acid, and it converts into all this types of immune proteins called cytokines and leukotrienes and these are important compounds that allow immune cells to coordinate an inflammatory and immune response, obviously very important.

But, they are linked to that inflammatory cascade, so if you are taking in a lot of Omega 6, which by the way, are found in lot of animal products, lots of the animal meat that we eat, especially, if you're eating, for instance, beef, that's grain-feed, which is what most beef is today, unfortunately. That's a lot of Omega 6, and you really are driving that pro-inflammatory cascade, which is important to a point, right? To a point.

Based on the way we eat in this country, the standard American diet, we're getting plenty of Omega 6, we really don't need to be supplementing with it, we don't need to be adding it to the supplements. I think we're overdoing it.

Which than brings us to Omega 3, which is also an essential fatty acid. The primary Omega 3 is called alpha linoleic acid. From this medium-sized alpha linoleic acid you will produce the important longer chain of Omega 3's, EPA AND DHA. This is the one you need to supplement because this is the one, the Omega 3's, that we're not getting enough from our diet. Mainly found in [inaudible 6:33] but ultimately in cold water fish, for instance. We don't, you know, the standard American diet is heavier to the land animals, not the ocean animals.

So, I, personally, again, there's nothing wrong with that what he called "a very comprehensive Omega product 9, 6 and 3", I just think it's not necessary, I think what we need to focus is on Omega 3 and there is one little aside to this and I do want to share with you.

There should be a balance between the essential fatty acids, the 6 and 3. Anytime that you are required to go out into the nature, through a food or supplementation and bring in something, what we call "essential nutrients", you always have to be conscientious of how you're doing that, and the amount that you're bringing in, because you want to keep the body in balance and we know that if you eat the standard American diet, which is about 80% meat/20% plant based, which, that should be completely reversed by the way, you're bringing tons of Omega 6 and very little Omega 3.

The average American eats about a ratio 6:3 of about 20:1. That's too much. A 6:3 ratio of 20:1 is very pro inflammatory and we already know, if you've listened to my show, chronic inflammation? It's the common denominator of all age-related disorders. So, if you're eating the standard American diet, you're bringing a way too many Omega 6, you probably have a high 6:3 ratio and you're just promoting inflammation which is important to an extent, but we're just bringing in to many of this pre-curses to this inflammatory cascade, which is really why I think in this country specifically, I think we really just need to focus on the Omega 3.

I don't think you need the 9, I don't think you need the 6. What we really need to bring more through diet, definitely, and also through supplementation are the Omega 3. Probably for most people at least a gram a day of Omega 3 through supplementation, maybe two? Depending on how much vegetables you eat and fish you eat, maybe even up to four grams a day? So, yeah, and that's going to improve that ratio, it's gonna bring that ratio of 6:3 down which we want, and ideal ratio of Omega 6 and Omega 3 is at least 4:1 or less, probably in a perfect balance it should be 1:1.

When I saw that product, I know it's a popular product, but i just don't think it's all that necessary to get the 9's and 6's. So my take home message is to supplement with Omega fats the polyunsaturated, very important, but focus on the Omega 3's, EPA and DHA. At least a gram a day.

This is Healthy talk on Radio MD. I'm Dr. Mike. Stay well.