Written by Carina Fabia
Last updated on: Sep 18, 2022
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Does it feel like a range of supplement suggestions wait around the corner for every possible health ailment? Knowing which ones offer the magic benefits they claim to and which supplements aren’t helpful becomes pretty tricky. So, is the rage around omega 3-6-9 for heart health worth the try or not?
Omega 3-6-9 supports heart health by decreasing triglycerides that contribute to the hardening and thickening of the arteries. In turn, omegas reduce the risks of heart attacks and diseases, strokes, and inflammation. More so, they minimize heartbeat irregularities, clotting, and LDL cholesterol.
While many studies proclaim that fish oil supplements benefit those with heart issues, the true source lies within the family of omega 3-6 and -9 fatty acids. Here’s the scoop on what you need to know about the link between omega 3-6 and -9 and heart health.
Omega-3 -6 and -9 are essential fatty acids that are vital dietary fats that offer a range of health benefits; however, it’s critical that achieve the appropriate balance between each fatty acid to prevent the imbalance contributing to various chronic diseases.
Omega fatty acids help minimize the risk of cardiac events, disease, and death (1).
For the past 20 years, the American Heart Association (AHA) has recommended consuming Omega-3s to reduce cardiovascular events, including heart attacks or strokes, in people who already suffer from cardiovascular disease (2).
Fat is your friend - fats are essential components to a healthy diet. On a deep molecular level, fats play a critical role in supporting crucial bodily functions, like reducing your risk for cardiovascular disease.
Omega oils are unsaturated fatty acids that contain at least one double bond link between the carbon atoms, limiting the number of hydrogen atoms that bind to the carbon atoms. These unsaturated fatty acids are split into two categories:
Mono-unsaturated fatty acids: Omega-9
Poly-unsaturated fatty acids: Omega-3 and omega-6
Note that the omega numbers (3, 6, 9) only reference how many carbons away from the tail end of the fatty acid chain the first carbon-carbon double bond appears. So, for example, if the double bond in the chemical structure is three carbons away, it’s an omega-3 fatty acid. More so, if the double bond is six or nine carbons away - you guessed it! - it’s respectively an omega-6 or omega-9 fatty acid.
All fats have essential roles in the body; however, the most critical fats are those that your body cannot self-produce. We either get these essential fatty acids from our food or through supplements.
The two primary essential fatty acids are:
• Alpha-linolenic acid (omega-3 group)
• Linoleic acid (omega-6 group)
Then, while Oleic acid (omega-9 group) isn’t strictly “essential” as the body can produce it, this mono-unsaturated fatty acid offers a range of health benefits.
Studies show that increasing your intake of essential fatty acids, be it alone or in combination with other fats, can increase your health by treating diseases and improving your body composition and mental and physical performance (3). However, note that maintaining a healthy balance between these essential fatty acids is vital to prevent chronic illnesses (4). As such, it’s vital to balance the excessive consumption of omega-6 over omega-3 fatty acids.
Omega-3 is famous for its potent health benefits, like reducing inflammation, fighting depression, and reducing markers of cardiac disease.
Among the wide range of omega-3 fatty acids, the three most common fats include:
• Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA): EPA is a 20-carbon fatty acid that produces eicosanoids, a chemical that helps reduce inflammation (5). The EPA treats heart-related conditions like preventing clogged arteries, heart attacks, and lowering triglycerides (blood fats) (6).
• Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA): DHA is a 22-carbon fatty acid that makes up 8% of your brain weight, contributing to brain development and function (7). In addition, DHA reduces the risk of heart or circulatory disease by reducing inflammation, decreasing the thickness of your blood, and lowering triglycerides (8).
• Alpha-linolenic acid (ALA): ALA is an 18-carbon fatty acid that benefits the immune system, nervous system, and heart (9). ALA is famous for treating heart and blood vessel diseases. For example, individuals consume ALA to prevent heart attacks, lower cholesterol, high blood pressure, and reverse arteriosclerosis (the hardening of blood vessels) (10).
In a nutshell, omega-3 fatty acids benefit your heart health in the following ways:
• Decreasing triglycerides: High triglycerides contribute to hardening and thickening the artery walls, which increase the risks of heart attacks, heart diseases, and acute inflammation (11).
• Lowering blood pressure and, in turn, decreasing the risk of strokes and heart failure
• Omega-3 slows down the build-up of plaque in your arteries that consists of fat, cholesterol, and calcium that limit the flow of oxygen-rich blood throughout your body (12).
• Reducing heartbeat irregularities (arrhythmias)
• Reducing blood clotting
It’s vital to maintain a healthy balance of 1:1 or 4:1 for omega-3 to omega-6 (13). However, a study shows that the ratio between the two fatty acids is not linked to the risk of heart disease as both are beneficial (14).
Evidence supports that omega-6 fatty acids positively impact cardiovascular health and reduce cardio risk factors and heart disease (14).
The two common fatty acids in omega-6 include:
• Linoleic acid (LA): LA plays a unique role in supporting your heart health. Clinical trials show that LA reduces LDL (bad) cholesterol while improving insulin sensitivity and overall blood pressure (15).
• Arachidonic acids (AA): AA is a long-chain omega-6 fatty acid associated with ischemic heart disease and strokes (16).
A combined examination of six randomized trials shows that replacing saturated fat with omega-6 leads to a 24% reduction in heart attacks risks and other coronary events (17).
To conclude, omega-6 supports heart health in the following ways:
• Reduces ischemic heart disease
• Reduces LDL cholesterol
• Lowers the risk of a stroke
• Reduces inflammation and inflammatory diseases
In contrast to omega-3 and omega-6, omega-9 is a monounsaturated fatty acid, making it non-essential. However, non-essential does not mean that it isn’t vital to ensure our cells are healthy and function properly.
• Oleic acid (OA): OA is the most prevalent omega-9 fatty acid; it improves your overall heart condition by lowering cholesterol and reducing inflammation (18).
• OA aids in protecting you against cardiovascular insulin resistance while improving endothelial dysfunction (a non-obstructive coronary artery disease where the large blood vessels of your heart’s surface narrow instead of opening) in response to pro-inflammatory signals.
• OA reduces proliferation and apoptosis (an energy-dependent programmed process of cell death) in vascular smooth muscle cells (VSMC) that can contribute to a rapid increase in ameliorated atherosclerotic or plaque stability (19).
A healthy diet is the best way to ingest omegas; however, taking a combined omega 3-6-9 supplement in a 2:1:1 ratio can help increase your omega intake, enhancing the balance of fatty acids in your body.
However, most individuals receive copious amounts of omega-6 from their regular diet, and the body can produce omega-9. So, while combined omega 3-6-9 supplements improve the ratio of these fatty acids, you can also consume an omega-3 supplement on its own.
Omega 3-6 and-9 are partners in preventing heart-related diseases by fighting inflammation, managing cholesterol, lowering blood pressure levels, and reducing triglycerides.
Consuming an omega-3 or omega 3-6-9 combination supplement along with a well-balanced diet will help you defeat heart disease and keep a healthy heartbeat!