Long chain polyunsaturated fatty acids (LC-PUFA’s) Omega 3’s and Omega 6’s are essential fatty acids in our diets as our bodies cannot create these themselves. The essential Omega 3 fatty acids are ALA (alpha-linolenic acid), DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) and EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid), where ALA is converted into EPA and EPA into DHA in our body although only in minimum levels. LA (linoleic acid) is the essential Omega 6 fatty acid and is converted in our body to ARA (arachidonic acid). ARA becomes essential if a deficiency in LA exists or if an inability to convert LA to ARA occurs (see also below in Figure 1: the metabolic pathways of the essential Omega 3 and 6 fatty acids).
Following scientific studies, the above LC-PUFA fatty acids are linked to different and significant health benefits. Among others the most important health benefits are a positive influence on maintaining a normal blood pressure and cholesterol levels, heart health and brain and eye development. Moreover, specifically the Omega 3 LC-PUFA’s DHA and EPA are linked to preserving a healthy immune system and have anti-inflammatory effects. Although many studies indicate positive health benefits, not all of them have been proven yet, however the overall picture is very positive.
Looking at our dietary intake, studies show that we usually get around 100mg per day of the essential Omega 3 fatty acids DHA and EPA from eating, while the European Food Safety Authority recommends a minimum of 250mg per day of DHA and EPA combined and some studies even recommend a combined DHA+EPA level of 3gr per day. Following this, it’s recommended to supplement additional DHA+EPA via dietary supplements and/or other specialized (functional) nutrition.
Moreover, the ratio of Omega 3 and Omega 6 intake seems to be important in order to have an optimal functionality inside our body. Studies have shown that the ratio in our diets usually is >15:1 Omega 6:Omega 3 while an optimum ratio is recommended of 2-6:1. This means that an additional dietary intake of the essential Omega 3 fatty acids would be needed in order to benefit most of the positive health effects of both Omega 3 and Omega 6 fatty acids.
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