Omega 3 wasn’t as good as we thought it was
It is known that omega-3s were not so good and omega-6s were not so bad.
If you take a look at the shelves of your supermarket, you can see just how many omega-3 enriched products are on the market. This fatty acid began to appear in our lives when its consumption was associated with a protective effect against cardiovascular diseases and its companion, omega 6, was condemned. However, as nutrition is an ever-advancing science, it is known that omega-3s were not so good and omega-6s were not so bad. And now, after years of campaigning for omega 3, it’s time to meet the other brother.
Let’s start with the first thing, There are three main types of fats: unsaturated fats, which are in turn divided into monounsaturated (of vegetable origin, such as olive oil or avocado) and polyunsaturated (from oily fish and other oils such as sunflower oil); saturated fats, mainly present in meat and dairy products derived from whole milk; and trans fats found in margarines, industrial pastries and prepared foods.
Omega 6 is a polyunsaturated fatty acid – that is to say, the carbon atoms of which it is composed have several double bonds in their chains – which means that it belongs to the group of fats that has traditionally been used as a fatty acid. considered as healthier, that is the unsaturated ones, whose consumption is recommended, especially to avoid the saturated ones.
“Only if saturated fats are replaced by monounsaturated or polyunsaturated fats, cardiovascular risk decreases”, Emili Ros, director of the Lipids Unit of the Hospital Clinic de Barcelona.
Not surprisingly, Emili Ros, director of the Lipid Unit of the Hospital Clinic of Barcelona and head of the Obesity and Nutrition group of the Biomedical Research Center Network (CIBEROBN) of the Carlos III Institute ensures that only if “saturated fats are replaced by monounsaturated or polyunsaturated fats, the cardiovascular risk decreases. Their mere elimination has no effect on cardiovascular disease and diabetes”.
Omega 6 is also considered an essential fatty acid which means that “they are compounds that are necessary but that our body can not synthesize, so that we must obtain them through our diet“, explains Miguel Ángel Lurueña, PhD in Food Science and Technology and author of the popular blog Petroleum jelly beans.
This component is mainly found in nuts, cereals, vegetable oils, avocado or eggs.. And what is the function of omega-6? Lurueña answers: “From these fatty acids are synthesized other longer chain fatty acids that are part of cell membranes and are used as precursors of compounds called eicosanoids that act as hormones, performing different functions, such as regulating blood pressure and inflammation processes, participating in clotting, and so on.
Where does the bad reputation of omega-6 lie?
This discrediting could be divided into two issues, although both are related. On the one hand, it was believed that omega-6 influenced inflammation processes, causing a higher risk of cardiovascular diseases, among others.
In the past International Congress of the Spanish Society of Anti-Aging Medicine held in Madrid, Dr. Barry Sears, president of the SpanishSociety of Anti-Aging Medicine, presented the Inflammation Research Foundation of the USA, warned precisely about these fatty acids: “The problem is that they are currently consumed in excess, leading to cellular inflammation, accelerated aging and the onset of various chronic diseases.” The recommended intake of omega 6 is about 12 grams for women and 17 for men.
Dr. Sears, who has launched a lucrative diet based on a higher intake of omega 3 while reducing omega 6, insisted during his presentation on the negative aspects of this fatty acid, something that Eduard Baladia of the Centre for the Analysis of Scientific Evidence of the Spanish Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (Academia Española de Nutrición y Dietética (CAEC-AEND). “It is now known that reducing omega-6 intake does not reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, and it is also known that studies on the benefit of omega-3 intake were overestimating its beneficial effects,” says Baladia.
Eduard Baladia, from the Centre for the Analysis of Scientific Evidence of the Spanish Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (CAEC-AEND), “It is now known that a decrease in omega-6 intake does not reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease”.
In the same sense Lurueña, who states categorically that, “to date, thereis insufficient evidence to be able to state that omega-6 fatty acids are beneficial or harmfulin terms of cardiovascular disease, and the same can be said with regard toomega-6 fattyacids. omega 3 supplements“.
The other black legend associated with omega-6s is their negative relationship with the excellent omega-3s. “It used to be thought that omega-6 and omega-3 in the diet had to maintain a certain ratio between them because they both compete for the same enzyme [delta6-desaturasa]. Theoretically this would mean that consuming a high amount of omega-6 would reduce the amount of enzyme available for the metabolism of omega-3, which would be detrimental. However, today the evidence shows that this relationship between them does not seem to be important,” explains Lurueña.
It should be noted that this does not mean that in the future the evidence will change because, as we said at the beginning, science advances which may lead to update some nutritional recommendations. What is relevant is the recommendation that more and more nutritionists are launching, that we should not focus on specific nutrients but on food and the whole diet.
“In this particular case, we should ask ourselves, for example, if we eat fish, flax seeds, nuts, etc., instead of worrying about adding or subtracting the amount of fatty acids we eat or taking supplements without a prescription from a health professional,” reflects Lurueña.