The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends eating fatty fish--salmon, mackerel, herring, lake trout, sardines and albacore tuna--twice a week to get sufficient amounts of healthy omega-3 fats. However, not everyone is able to include fish on a regular basis in their diets and may prefer turning to a supplement such as fish oil capsules or omega-3-6-9 capsules.
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Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Omega-3 fatty acids, a polyunsaturated fat, are found under three main forms: docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and alpha-linolenic acid (ALA). DHA and EPA are marine omega-3 and are mainly found in fish. ALA is a vegetable source of omega-3 and is present in walnuts, vegetable oils such as canola and soybean oils, and flaxseeds. Omega-3 fats may reduce triglycerides; lower risk of death, heart attack and stroke, regulate heart rhythms--or lower risk of arrhythmia--and decrease the risk of atherosclerosis. They may also benefit your memory and general mental performance in addition to being anti-inflammatory. These benefits seem to be seen with all types of omega-3s, though DHA and EPA appear more powerful than ALA. The current recommendation from the World Health Organization (WHO) and governmental health agencies is to consume 0.3 to 0.5 g a day of EPA and DHA combined, as well as 0.8 to 1.1 g of ALA.
Omega-6 Fatty Acids
Omega-6 fatty acids, which are polyunsaturated, are found in nuts, seeds and vegetable oils such as soybean, safflower, sunflower or corn oils, which are widely used by the food industry. The American Heart Association recommends that 5 to 10 percent of your calories come from omega-6 fatty acids, which represent 12 to 22 g a day. Most Americans are meeting and even exceeding that recommendation. Replacing saturated and trans fats with omega-6 fats is associated with a lower risk of heart disease.
Omega-9 Fatty Acids
Omega-9 fats, or oleic acid, are monounsaturated fats abundant in olive oil, safflower oil, canola oil, avocado and nuts such as almonds and peanuts. Unlike omega-3 and omega-6, omega-9 is not considered an essential fatty acid; it can be produced by the body, although dietary intake is beneficial. Omega-9 fatty acids help lower your bad cholesterol--or LDL--in addition to reducing your risk of cardiovascular disease and stroke. Most monounsaturated sources also contain high levels of vitamin E, a powerful health-protective antioxidant.
Both omega-3 and omega-6 are essential to your health, but according to dietitian Evelyn Tribole, interviewed in the February 2009 issue of Diabetes Forecast, we consume 14 times more omega-6, on average, than omega-3 fats. When it's out of balance like that, these two fats compete for the same enzymes. And the more omega-6, the more they're going to grab those enzymes. A high omega-6:omega-3 ratio prevents the omega-3 from bringing you their wonderful health benefits. In other words, you should increase your omega-3 or replace some of your omega-6 with omega-3 fatty acids. The U.S. Department of Agriculture currently recommends consuming 8 ounces of fish a week due to its omega-3 benefits.
Fish Oil Caspules Vs. Omega-3-6-9
Omega-3 is the only fat that is really lacking in most Americans diet. If you decide to buy supplements, you may as well pay for what you really need: omega-3, or DHA and EPA. Cook with healthy fat such as olive and canola oils, sprinkle your yogurt with nuts and add a few slices of avocado to your salad to get the healthy fats needed by your body. As for supplements, what you really need are fish oil capsules containing DHA and EPA. Don't bother with the omega-3-6-9.
If you have coronary heart disease, diabetes or take blood-thinning medications such as Coumadin (Warfarin), talk to your doctor before taking supplements. Because of the increased risk of bleeding and the potential slight increase in fasting blood glucose levels in type 2 diabetics observed with omega-3 supplementation, medical supervision is advisable.