Unlike omega-3 and omega-6, omega-7 and omega-9 are not essential fatty acids. They don't have a specific function in the body. However, they are still a dense source of energy.
It's also believed that many monounsaturated fats can have health benefits. So unlike omega-6, you don't need to cut them down.
Instead, you should consider switching it for omega-3 foods whenever possible if you're looking to balance your intake. For example, you might want to use flaxseed oil over your salads instead of olive oil if you are lacking omega-3.
Why an omega balance is key to good health
Now that we've seen how each of the omega fatty acids work, it's time to talk about why balance is essential to optimal well-being.
In today's standard Westernised diet, we tend to eat a lot more omega-6 and omega-9, and very little omega-3. This is because of the oils most commonly used in cooking and processing foods. Some diets are believed to be at a ratio of 30:1 omega-6: omega-3. Unfortunately, this can lead to problems.
When we consume too much omega-6, it means that we tend towards a state of inflammation. The pro-inflammatory omega-6s aren't balanced out with the calming omega-3s. This, combined with a poor diet, stress, medication use, alcohol, caffeine and/or smoking, can cause chronic inflammation.
The problem is that chronic inflammation is believed to be one of the leading causes of preventable disease today. Chronic inflammation is linked to many health issues, including:
- Heart disease
- Insulin resistance
- Type 2 diabetes
- Metabolic syndrome
- Depression and anxiety
- Chronic pain
- Autoimmune disease
So if you're consuming too much omega-6 and not enough omega-3, these are things you could develop over time. Which is something that no one wants!
That's why the aim for a balance is a ratio of 4:1 or lower. It's believed that humans evolved with a ratio as low as 1:1.