Omega 3, 6, 9

Contrary to what you may read somewhere, canola or flaxseed oil is NOT a sufficient source of omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids. For many reasons. Since this theory has gained a lot of popularity, and the consumption of fatty acids is crucial to our health, it is worth taking a closer look at it, without going into boring details:

There are several important fatty acids for health. One of them is ALA, an essential omega 3, present in flaxseed and canola oil. Our body synthesizes small amounts of the advanced form of omega 3, EPA, from it, and from this, in turn, DHA.

The other is LA, the primary omega 6 acid, also present in these oils. From it, in turn, we produce GLA in the body, also in small amounts.

Two problems will be relevant here:

First, fatty acids saturate the body SLOWLY. So much so that we can talk here about whole years that pass before large doses of a given substance saturate our cell membranes. If we have too little EPA and DHA acids, for example, which leads to depression, we can take supplements with megadoses, then our condition will slowly begin to improve, after a year or so everything should be evened out. If we wanted to achieve the same effect with flaxseed or canola oil, it would take many times longer, and would probably never succeed, because simply our body would produce EPA and DHA more slowly than is needed for brain regeneration. After all, if it did it adequately, we wouldn’t be deficient….

And here is the second problem, the rate of production of the three most essential fatty acids. It depends not only on genes, but also on dozens of other factors. For example, a person with diabetes requires several times more LA acid to produce GLA from it. As a result, deficiencies of the latter cause neuropathies, which can be treated with its supplementation. Theoretically, it is possible to achieve the same effect by using LA acid and relying on synthesis in the body, but this would require amounts that are simply gigantic, while blocking the metabolic pathway that produces other fatty acids.

In other words, first, we don’t know if we are deficient in the fatty acids in question and how much, and second, we don’t know if our body will produce the more “advanced” ones – EPA, DHA and GLA. There are already dozens of clinical trials in which GLA supplementation has proved salutary for sick people, and since the “raw material” for its production, i.e. the basic LA acid (present, for example, in rapeseed oil) practically everyone supplies even in excess, one can guess that for a big part of the population ANY amount of these “basic” acids will not be adequate. Because if harmful excess is not enough, how much should we take? And what to do about the inherent side effects associated with this excess?

Similarly, EPA and DHA, here studies that have shown the benefits of consumption by healthy people, theoretically not deficient, are even more. It was EPA and DHA, not vegetable oil, that reduced the risk of Alzheimer’s twice. It was them, not vegetable oil consumed by the mother that more than halved the risk of autism in the child. Finally, they were the ones that cured depression and neurotic disorders.

Of course, there are people for whom ordinary, essential fatty acids are sufficient. But this applies to people who are firstly healthy, secondly have good genes, and thirdly have good levels already at the start.

GLA acid, which is an “advanced” form of omega 6, is probably not worth discussing here, as its main use is in supplementation in sick people. They often have a very severely impaired ability to synthesize it, leading to severe deficiencies. To make matters worse, the definition of “disease” is also unclear. For example, a history of Epstein-Barr virus infection causes the body to cope worse afterward, even though theoretically it is already healthy. The therapeutic effects can be really powerful, in one clinical trial supplementation literally reversed multiple sclerosis, it also allowed rheumatoid arthritis patients to stop taking drugs.

Therapeutic doses are quite expensive, and one should take 10 to even 20 ml of evening primrose / borage oil per day. Everyone should judge for themselves whether it’s worth spending money on several months of therapy to raise the concentration of GLA in the body. One teaspoon of borage oil a day should be enough to keep the level high, but not to fix the deficiency.

EPA and DHA should be taken daily, it’s hard to determine the right doses here, as there are not enough studies to draw firm conclusions. Probably 200 mg of EPA per day (there is practically always the same ratio of EPA to DHA in a tablet) is sufficient, and perhaps even too high for a healthy person. People who are ill, and who suspect a deficiency, should first do a months-long, rather expensive (but not as much as GLA) therapy to raise levels in the brain and regenerate the parts of the body where these acids are essential. You should use doses of about 2,000 mg of EPA per day. You can get these amounts from fish without too much trouble, except that you should then expect high concentrations of various toxins in their bodies. Vegetarians should absolutely use supplementation.

It can be suspected with a high degree of probability that the vast majority of those reading these words have lower-than-optimal concentrations of EPA and DHA in their bodies, and will benefit from this “initial” supplementation with higher doses, possibly halved to 1,000 mg of EPA per day.

A number of other fatty acids are quite controversial. For example, palmitoleic acid simultaneously improved the health of patients in clinical trials in supplement form, but studies of its blood levels among the population have shown that those with the highest levels have a high risk of disease. Perhaps this is because it is present in foods that are unhealthy for other reasons? It’s hard to resolve anything here. It is advertised as one of the “longevity” supplements, but at the moment its status is unclear.

I don’t want to settle here whether the fatty acids present in, say, coconut oil or olive oil are healthy or not. In clinical trials they have usually shown positive effects, but it is important to remember that many substances help in one case and harm in another.

That leaves omega 9 acids, they are mainly present in olive oil. Here, the results of supplementation are not as dramatic as in the case of GLA or EPA, nevertheless, in many studies, olive oil significantly improved the health or prolonged the life of laboratory animals. The problem is that olive oil contains a number of other health-promoting substances at the same time, so it’s hard to resolve which factor was responsible for the improved health.

As we are already writing about fats, the information that frying on oil or oils causes the appearance of carcinogens, especially acrylamide, is greatly exaggerated. Their amounts are microscopic and have virtually no effect on health. Likewise, alarmist reports about the oxidation of fatty acids are unfounded. These processes during frying in the kitchen are so weakly intensified that they can be disregarded in health considerations. You can calmly use canola oil or olive oil for frying.