Dietary Fat & Omega -3, -6, & -9 Fatty Acids

Dietary fat is an important part of balanced nutrition, providing the body with a storable source of energy more efficient in its output than that derived from carbs and protein.  The downside of fat being storable in a compact anhydrous(containing no water) state is it allows us to accumulate large, often unnecessary stores, resulting in obesity and health complications associated with such.1,2

In addition to being a source of energy, some vitamins(A, D, E, & K) require fat to dissolve in for absorption by the body.1

There are different kinds of fats in the foods we eat. Trans and saturated fats are considered unhealthy fats; diets high in these have been associated with a higher risk of cardiovascular disease(CVD). Monounsaturated (containing a single double bond) and polyunsaturated (containing two or more double bonds) fats are considered healthy fats; diets high in these, rather than trans and saturated fats, have conversely been associated with decreased risk of CVD.1

Fats containing a high percentage of trans or saturated fat are solid at room temperature (e.g. butter, coconut oil), where as mono- and poly- saturated fats are liquid (e.g. most cooking oils).

Because of the body’s storage potential for fats, it is still recommended to reduce excess intake of all fat types.

The Omegas3

Omega-3, -6, & -9 fatty acids are all considered to be healthy and important dietary fats.  A diet rich in them promotes healthy skin and hair, reduces risk of CVD, and supports health weight loss especially when used in substitution for trans and saturated fats.

Most common types of Omega-3, -6, & -9 Fatty Acids:

Omega-3: Aalpha-linolenic acid (ALA), eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA)
Omega-6: Linoleic acid
Omega-9: Oleic acid

Omega-3 and -6 fatty acids are polyunsaturated fats, considered essential as the body cannot make them on its own.

Omega-3 fatty acids are the most commonly lacking in western diets of the three, something supplementation can help with. In addition to providing the body with energy, they aid in healthy brain development and function.

Omega-6 fatty acids are primarily utilized for energy. Some omega-3 & -6 fatty acids may be associated with reducing inflammation and symptoms associated with arthritis.

Omega-9 fatty acids are monosaturated fats; they are not considered essential as they can be produced in the body, but can still be beneficial to obtain in the diet. One study suggests that diets high in monosaturated fats may help reduce inflammation and improve insulin sensitivity.

  1. Caballero, B., Allen, L., Prentice, A. (2005). Fats and Oils. In Encyclopedia of Human Nutrition, 2nd ed., Vol. 2, pp. 177-186. Elsevier.
  2. Caballero, B., Allen, L., Prentice, A. (2005). Fatty Acids. In Encyclopedia of Human Nutrition, 2nd ed., Vol. 2, pp. 186-237. Elsevier.
  3. Robertson, R. (2017, Jan 15). Omega-3-6-9 Fatty Acids: A Complete Overview. Healthline.