Omega 3 vs Omega 6

Omega 3 vs Omega 6 - What's the difference?

Before we answer this question let us first define fatty acids.

Essential fatty acids, or EFAs, are fatty acids that cannot be constructed within our bodies from other components by any known chemical pathways and therefore must be obtained from the diet.

The term refers to fatty acids involved in biological processes and not those which may just play a role as fuel.

There are two families of EFAs: ω-3 (or omega-3 or n−3) and ω-6 (omega-6, n−6).

Fats from each of these families are essential, as the body can convert one omega-3 to another omega-3, for example, but cannot create an omega-3 from omega-6 or saturated fats.

Both Omega 3 and Omega 6 are good fats and we can think of them as fatty acids that "heal" rather than do any damage.

The first difference between the two fatty acids is in the chemical geometry:

  • Omega 3 has a final carbon–carbon double bond in the n−3 position; that is, the third bond from the methyl end of the fatty acid.
  • omega 6 has a final carbon–carbon double bond in the n−6 position, that is, the sixth bond from the end of the fatty acid.

The second difference lies in the importance of the fact that people on a typical western diet consume far too much of Omega 6 and not enough of Omega 3 fats. Most North Americans and Europeans get too much of Omega 6 and insufficient amounts Omega 3 fatty acids.

The ratio of Omega 3 to Omega 6 should be 1:3, but unfortunately most western diets have a ratio of 10-20:1 in heavy favour of Omega 6.

This imbalance is not good for health. In fact, the imbalance between omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids may contribute to obesity, depression, dyslexia, hyperactivity and even a tendency toward violence. Bringing the fats into proper proportion can actually relieve those conditions.

Omega 3 vs Omega 6 - Same Functions

Both Omega 3 and Omega 6 essential fatty acids are important in several human body systems, including the immune system and in blood pressure regulation, since they are used to make compounds such as prostaglandins. The brain has increased amounts of linoleic and alpha-linolenic acid derivatives.

Fatty acids play an important role in the life and death of cardiac cells because they are essential fuels for mechanical and electrical activities of the heart.

Omega 3 vs Omega 6 - Sources

Omega 3 is found in grean leafy vegetables, fish and fish oils, nuts and flaxseed oil.

omega 3 vs omega 6, omega 3 benefits, omega 3 vs omega 6, omega 3 benefits,

Read a more detailed article on health benefits Omega 3 and see a more detailed list of its sources.

Omega-6 fatty acids are well represented in modern diets and are found in seeds and nuts and the oils extracted from them. Refined vegetable oils (such as soy oil) are used in snack foods, cookies, crackers, and sweets in the western diet as well as in fast food. Thus, all of these foods contain Omega 6.

Omega 3 vs Omega 6 - List of Acids

Omega 3 & Omega 6 Fatty Acids
Omega 3 Fatty Acids
Omega 6 Fatty Acids
Common Name
Common Name
Alpha-linolenic acid (ALA)Linoleic acid
Stearidonic acid (STD)Gamma-linolenic acid (GLA)
Eicosatrienoic acid (ETE)Eicosadienoic acid
Eicosatetraenoic acid (ETA)Dihomo-gamma-linolenic acid (DGLA)
Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA)Arachidonic acid (AA)
Docosapentaenoic acid (DPA)Docosadienoic acid
Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA)Adrenic acid
Tetracosapentaenoic acidDocosapentaenoic acid (Osbond acid)
Tetracosahexaenoic acid (Nisinic acid)

Nutritionally essential n−3 fatty acids are: α-linolenic acid (ALA), eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), all of which are polyunsaturated.

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