Essential fatty acids play a vital role in women’s health. They are required by our body for carrying out various biological processes that keep us healthy and alive. Since they cannot be synthesised inside our body, they must be obtained from food sources or dietary supplements. Deficiency of essential fatty acids can result in serious harm to our body.
While there are several different types of fatty acids, only two of them are known to be essential for humans: Omega-3 fatty acids (also known as alpha-linolenic acids) and Omega-6 fatty acids (also known as linoleic acids). Also known as polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs), they differ from other fatty acids, which act only as energy sources, in that they have a direct impact on our wellbeing.
Omega-3 fatty acids:
Omega-3 fatty acids play a crucial role in brain function and the normal growth and development of our body. Studies have shown that they can also reduce inflammation and the risk of chronic diseases such as heart disease, rheumatic arthritis, cancer, high blood pressure and diabetes.
Omega-3 fatty acids are necessary for the development of the baby’s brain during pregnancy. Deficiency of omega-3 fatty acids in women during pregnancy can result in the birth of babies who are at a high risk of developing nerve, vision and immune system problems. After the child’s birth, it may result in insufficient milk production and engorged breasts.
Omega-3 fatty acids are also believed to facilitate pregnancy in women with infertility problems. Intake of omega-3 during pregnancy may promote fetal growth, increase the length or pregnancy and lower the risk of premature. Consuming omega-3 during breastfeeding can expedite the child’s brain development.
Omega-3 fatty acids may also help reduce menstrual pain, postpartum depression, menopausal problems and postmenopausal osteoporosis. Consumption of foods and dietary supplements rich in omega-3 fatty acids for several years may also reduce the risk of breast cancer.
The primary sources of omega-3 fatty acids are plant, cold water fish and nut oils. The fish that are rich in omega-3 fatty acids include salmon, halibut, mackerel, sardines, herring and tuna.
Omega-6 fatty acids:
Like Omega-3 fatty acids, omega-6 fatty acids also play a crucial role in brain function and the normal growth and development of our body. They have also been shown to stimulate skin and hair growth, regulate metabolism, maintain bone health and maintain the reproductive system.
Studies have shown that, consumption of omega-6 fatty acids can reduce breast pain and tenderness in women suffering from cyclic mastalgia. Omega-6 fatty acids are also believed to be effective in treating hot flashes associated with menopause although there is no conclusive proof of this. Some women have been known to experience relief from premenstrual symptoms after consuming omega-6 fatty acid supplements.
The primary sources of omega-6 fatty acids include vegetable oils (sunflower oil, poppy seed oil, grape seed oil and safflower oil, soybean oil), nuts (walnuts, butternuts, pine nuts), mayonnaise (cholesterol-free) and salad dressing. It’s important to understand that an overabundance of omega 6 vs omega 3 can result in an increase in inflammation in the body. Not all Omega 6 is inflammatory however. GLA from Evening Primrose Oil is an anti-inflammatory omega 6 fatty acid.
Omega-3 vs. omega-6:
To maintain good health, there should be a balance between omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids in your diet. The recommended omega-6 to omega-3 ratio is in the range of 2:1 to 4:1. Since you get plenty of omega-6 fatty acids from edible oils, it is usually not necessary to take supplements. However, omega-3 fatty acids may need to be obtained from dietary supplements, such as fish oil.
I recommend the product Omegalogic by Aminologic which is a combination of Omega 3 from fish oil and the non-inflammatory omega 6 GLA from evening primrose oil to ensure all bases are covered in regard to essential fatty acid intake.
Article by Rhiannon Harris. Rhiannon Harris (aka “Miss Nutrition“) is a specialist in Strength & Weight Training, HIIT Training and Circuits; a professional athlete and Fitness Super Model who is leading a movement to educate Australians about the importance Vitamins & Minerals has on everyday functioning- and how they affect hormones. Model, training enthusiast and health coach, Rhiannon is helping to motivate females to get active – and invites women to TOP UP with vitamins + minerals and understand the scientific importance they have on our daily functioning.