Omega 3-6-9 are polyunsaturated fatty acids, or healthy fats, that are important for human health. Of these fatty acids, omega 3 and omega 6 are referred to as essential fatty acids because they cannot be produced within the body and must be obtained through the diet. Omega 9 can be made in the body from other unsaturated fats consumed in the diet. Each of these omega fats has a slightly different side effect on the body, especially if you get too much.
Omega-3 is the most important of the omega fats, because it is more difficult to obtain in the diet and is less common in foods, when compared to omega-6 and omega-9. These fatty acids are found in fish foods and some plants and nuts. The main benefit of omega-3 is its anti-inflammatory qualities in terms of injury and excessive blood clotting. The University of Maryland Medical Center (UMMC) also recognizes omega-3 as being vital for proper brain function. If this fatty acid is being consumed by means of supplementation, it is not recommended to consume more than 3 g daily as there is a risk of excessive bleeding and increased sensitivity in bruising. Fish oil supplements of omega-3 are also known to cause bloating, belching and diarrhea in some cases.
Omega-6 is similar to omega-3 in that it is also considered an essential fatty acid and that the body is unable to produce it from other unsaturated fats. Omega-6, however, is much easier to obtain through the diet. In fact, many people get too much omega-6 because it is found in so many common products, such as the butters and oils used in many cooking and baking processes in both home- and factory-prepared foods. Side effects of too much omega-6 cause an inflammatory reaction in the body. Although this is a desired side effect in some cases in terms of desired blood clotting when needed, over consumption can be harmful. According to the UMMC, evening primrose oil as an omega-6 supplement has side effects of headaches, abdominal pain, nausea and loose stools.
Omega-9 fatty acid is not considered an essential fatty acid because the body can produce this substance on its own from other saturated fats consumed in the diet. The body can use omega-9 as a substitute for omega-3 and omega-6 if they are not present in the system. Omega-9 is found in animal fats, vegetable oils and cooking oils, such as olive oil. For omega-9 amounts to cause a problem, the intake would have to be associated with a diet that is very high in fat and dietary cholesterol, which is associated with weight gain and cardiovascular disease.
- ''Staying Healthy With Nutrition: The Complete Guide to Diet and Nutritional Medicine''; Dr. Elson M. Haas; 2006
- University of Maryland Medical Center: Omega-3 Fatty Acids
- University of Maryland Medical Center: Omega-6 Fatty Acids
- Womnen to Women: Nutrition