Omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids both fall under the general category of polyunsaturated fats. You body can't make omega-3 or -6 fatty acids, so they're essential as part of your diet. Omega-9 fatty acids are nonessential, because they are produced in the body. Omega-3, -6 and -9 fatty acids all support tissue function, and getting enough omega-3s and omega-6s in your diet helps maintain your health.
Omega-3 fatty acids reduce inflammation in the body and help prevent heart disease by lowering cholesterol and high blood pressure, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center. Risk for colorectal, prostate and breast cancer may also be reduced with a diet rich in omega-3 fatty acids, but more research is being done on this possible role. Most women need 1.1 grams of omega-3 fatty acids each day. However, you need more omega-3s during pregnancy -- 1.4 grams daily -- and 1.3 grams each day when you're breastfeeding.
Omega-6, also known as linoleic acid, is beneficial for nervous system growth and development and skin repair and it may prevent heart disease when eaten in moderation. The American Heart Association recommends consuming 5 to 10 percent of your total calories per day in omega-6 fatty acids. According to the Food and Nutrition Information Center, the daily recommended intake amount of omega-6 varies by age and gender. The amount of omega-6 fatty acids you need depends on your age. Women up to age 50 need 12 grams daily, while women over 50 need 11 grams. Pregnancy and breastfeeding both increase your omega-6 fatty acid requirements to 13 grams each day.
Sources of Omega-3 and Omega-6
Sources of omega-3 fatty acids include fatty fish such as salmon, tuna, mackerel, sardines and herring. The American Heart Association recommends consuming fish at least two times per week to reduce your risk of heart disease. Additionally, nuts, seeds and oils such walnuts, walnut oil, flaxseed, flaxseed oil, canola oil, pumpkin seeds and pumpkin seed oil are rich sources of omega-3 fatty acids. Your intake of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids will determine how much omega-9 your body needs to produce. Sources of omega-6 include seeds and nuts such as sunflower and flaxseeds, cashews, walnuts and almonds. Vegetable-based oils are also rich sources of omega-6, which include canola, sunflower and corn oil.
Omega-9 fatty acid is produced in the body. Your body converts the saturated fat steric acid to oleic acid, which is omega-9. The body creates more omega-9 when deficiencies in omega-3 and omega-6 are present, according to the Linus Pauling Institute. Omega-9 fatty acids help protect against heart disease and cancers.
- University of Maryland Medical Center: Omega-3 Fatty Acids
- American Heart Association: Questions About Fish
- American Heart Association Science Advisory: Omega-6 Fatty Acids: Make Them a Part of a Heart Healthy Diet
- Linus Pauling Institute: Essential Fatty Acids
- Food and Nutrition Information Center; Dietary Tables; Daily Recommended Intakes; Macronutrients
- The fish head, fish a tail image by Sergii Kondrytskyi from Fotolia.com
This article reflects the views of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views of Jillian Michaels or JillianMichaels.com.