omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids

omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids

For those who have neither the interest nor the understanding for biochemistry, the concept itself is rather simple: The Omega 3 metabolic pathway is an anti-inflammatory pathway and thereby provides the health benefits that are present when inflammation is low which include decreased risk for cancer, diabetes and cardiovascular disease amongst a myriad of other health benefits.

The Omega 6 metabolic pathway can be either pro-inflammatory or anti-inflammatory. Diets however that are low in Omega 3 fatty acids and high in Omega 6 fatty acids will tend to result in higher levels of inflammation especially if the diet of concern lacks important nutrients such as magnesium and B vitamins. Higher levels of inflammation will result in increased risk for chronic degenerative diseases such as those mentioned above and will tend to accelerate the aging process.

Now a word of caution: some after reading this information may want to consume only foods with Omega 3 fatty acids and avoid those with Omega 6 fatty acids. This would be a huge mistake. One must remember that both Omega 3 and Omega 6 fatty acids are in fact essential fatty acids and are both necessary for the body to function properly. The issue at hand is in degrees not in absolutes. Because the American diet can have an Omega 6 / Omega 3 ratio as high as 20:1 or even 40:1, it behooves an individual to make sure that they are getting enough Omega 3 in their diet. A healthier Omega 6/Omega 3 ratio according to most authorities on the subject hovers around 4:1 to as low as 2:1 Omega 6 to Omega 3. As you can see, a healthy diet still has more Omega 6 fatty acids than Omega 3 fatty acids but certainly not a disproportionate level as is often seen in America

Omega 3/Linolenic Acid Pathway

  1. Alpha-linolenic Acid is converted to Stearidonic Acid by the enzyme “delta-6-desaturase”
    • a. Delta-6-desaturase is dependent upon Vitamin B6, magnesium and zinc for proper function.
    • b. It is interesting to note that people suffering from asthma are often deficient in these nutrients and as a result are more prone to inflammation which exacerbates asthma.
  2. Stearidonic Acid is converted to Eicosatetraenoic Acid by the enzyme “elongase”
  3. Eicosatetraenoic Acid is converted to Eicosapentaenoic Acid by the enzyme “delta-5-desaturase”.
    • a. Delta-5-desaturase requires Vitamin C, niacin and zinc
  4. Eicosapentaneoic Acid/EPA is converted into anti-inflammatory prostaglandins and anti-inflammatory leukotrienes.
    • a. The enzyme “cyclo-oxygenase” converts EPA into anti-inflammatory prostaglandins (aka: series 3 prostaglandins).
    • b. The enzyme “lipoxygenase” converts EPA into anti-inflammatory leukotrienes.
  5. In order to produce Docosahexaenoic Acid (DHA) Eicosapentaenoic Acid (EPA) is first converted into Docosapentaenoic Acid by the enzyme elongase and is then converted to DHA by the enzyme Delta-4-Dehydorgenase.