Are you wasting your money on an Omega 3-6-9 Supplement?

by Team NCNR | September 26, 2016 Views :

There is no arguing the fact that Essential fatty acids (EFAs) have an important role in our body. EFAs are the good fats which the body cannot make on its own - and these can be obtained only through our diet.
With over 27,000 clinical research studies backing their efficacy, Omega-3 fatty acids are the most scientifically validated EFAs that have shown to benefit overall health. However, along with Omega-3, EFAs also consist of two more fatty acids - Omega-6 and Omega-9.
There are two kinds of EFA supplements in the market- ‘Stand-alone Omega-3’ and ‘Omega 3-6-9’. The latter, i.e. ‘Omega 3-6-9’ supplements are fairly popular and preferred by many people for fulfilling their EFA requirements.
But are these really a better choice for your health? Is it necessary for you to supplement with Omega 3-6-9?

These are important questions that you should be asking before buying an essential fatty acids supplement. Before we answer these questions, let’s understand why essential fatty acids are so important and why we need to supplement them in our diet.

A primer on Essential Fatty acids
As stated above, EFAs are a group of 3 fatty acids- Omega-3, Omega-6, Omega-9. EFAs form the structural components of the cells by incorporating themselves into the cell membrane walls. They affect cell membrane properties such as fluidity, flexibility, permeability and the activity of membrane- bound enzymes. These properties regulate the transport of nutrients and waste materials in and out of cells as well as communication between cells. Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids are also required for the production of many other compounds that regulate inflammatory and immune response.

Amongst the 3 fatty acids, it is Omega-3 and Omega-6 which are truly essential. The body can still make Omega-9 fatty acids on its own, provided the other two are available. Hence the key to EFA supplementation is getting Omega-3 and Omega-6.

Foods high in EFAs
Essential fatty acids can only be obtained through your diet. The foods high in EFAs are-

See for yourself...Our diet is already laden with Omega-6 fatty acids.
The above table clearly shows that vegetable oils such as Sunflower oil, Safflower oil, with high Omega-6 fatty acid content, are clearly dominant in our diet. But if you think that having more amount of Omega-6 is enough to take care of the EFA requirements, then you are mistaken. Having higher amounts of Omega-6’s and not enough Omega-3’s can lead to grave consequences for body’s health. Your body requires both these EFAs in a balanced ratio for it to function optimally.

Very few of us consume fish or flaxseeds in our daily diet. As a result, Omega-3 are the only EFAs which our diet is deficient in. With our diet failing to provide these amounts sufficiently, the only way to meet the requirements is through supplementation of Omega-3 fatty acids.


To prevent chronic diseases, a correct Omega-3: Omega-6 ratio is crucial
A balanced Omega-3: Omega-6 ratio is the KEY factor in ensuring optimal functioning of the cells and overall health. A correct ratio maintains the cellular structure and regulates several functions in heart, brain, nervous system and immune health. The moment this ratio is off-balance, the cell functioning is grossly affected causing inflammation and eventually leading to chronic diseases. In order to maintain this balance, the recommended ratio of omega-3 and omega-6 ranges between 1:1 to 1:4.

As we already have sufficient Omega-6 in our diet via vegetable oils, we need to supplement with Omega-3s.
Very few of us consume fish or flaxseeds in our daily diet. As a result, Omega-3 are the only EFAs which our diet is deficient in.

Several epidemiological studies have pointed to the fact that due to higher consumption of omega-6’s and lower consumption of omega-3’s, the present ratio of Omega-6 and Omega-3 fatty acids in our diet has risen to 20:1. This imbalance in ratio is believed to be the reason behind increase in development of inflammatory diseases such as cardiovascular disorders, obesity, hypertension, arthritis etc.

In order to correct this ratio, Omega-3 requirements for adults are pegged to range between 1g- 3g per day. With our diet failing to provide these amounts sufficiently, the only way to meet the requirements is through supplementation of Omega-3 fatty acids.

Then, what is an Omega 3-6-9 supplement for?
An Omega 3-6-9 supplement contains Omega-3, usually in the form of alpha linoleic acid from flaxseed oil, Omega-6 in the form of gamma linoleic acid (GLA) from borage or primrose oil and Omega-9 in the form of oleic acid from olive oil. The goal of such a supplement is to provide a balanced ratio of all three essential fatty acids by combining different oils.

But you don’t need all three EFAs. What you require is only Omega-3 fatty acids.

You don’t need an Omega-3, 6, 9 supplement

  • You are already getting enough of Omega-6 

Think logically, if you are getting enough amounts of Omega-6 fatty acids from your regular cooking oils, is there a need to supplement it? As far as Omega-9 goes, we have already established that body can produce it on its own. It is not essential, which then effectively eliminates the need for its supplementation.

  • An Omega 3-6-9 supplement will contribute to further imbalance in the Omega-3: Omega-6 ratio 

In the present scenario, where we are already consuming high amounts of Linoleic acid, the body prefers to convert it into a pro-inflammatory compound called Arachidonic acid instead of PG1 series.

Omega 3-6-9 contains GLA which is one of the compounds formed during metabolism of linoleic acid and is not an essential fatty acid. It has no recommended daily intake. Therefore, supplementing with any form of Omega 6, be it linoleic acid or GLA, is not required. This imbalanced ratio, as we already know, will aggravate inflammation and increase the risk of chronic diseases.
  • An Omega 3-6-9 supplement will not have enough Omega-3

Furthermore, even if your Omega 3-6-9 supplement contains Omega-3s, its form and quantity may not be sufficient to cover the deficiency for correction of the imbalanced ratio of EFAs. In case of Omega-3 fatty acids, the EPA and DHA forms are the ones which have biological significance.

  • An Omega 3-6-9 supplement will have not have the best source of Omega-3

An Omega 3-6-9 supplement usually lists flaxseed oil as a source of Omega-3. But this is incorrect as flaxseed oil is not a direct source for the Omega 3 fatty acids EPA and DHA. Flaxseed oil contains ALA (Alpha linoleic acid) which has to be then converted to EPA and DHA in the body. However, this conversion is very poor (less than 2%) and inefficient. Even if the Omega 3-6-9 supplement contains fish oil, the amount will be very low and you will need to have multiple servings- resulting in further increases in the intake of Omega-6 as well! Instead, it makes more sense to go for a stand-alone fish oil supplement which will give you EPA and DHA directly.

Think logically, if you are getting enough amounts of Omega-6 fatty acids from your regular cooking oils, is there a need to supplement it? As far as Omega-9 goes, we have already established that body can produce it on its own. It is not essential, which then effectively eliminates the need for its supplementation.

NCNR conclusion- Do not waste your money on Omega 3-6-9 supplements
Supplements are designed to fulfill the gaps that cannot be met through your regular diet. In case of essential fatty acids, the only ones that we are deficient in and find it difficult to consume through our diet are Omega-3 fatty acids. We have plenty of Omega-6 and Omega-9 through our diet and there is no need for added supplementation. Therefore, based on this understanding, buying an Omega 3-6-9 supplement will be a complete waste of money as it will not really help correct the imbalance of Omega-3 and Omega-6 but instead aggravate it further.

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