What are omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids?
These are types of polyunsaturated fatty acids. Linolenic acid, the shortest chain omega-3 fatty acid, and linoleic acid, the shortest chain omega-6 fatty acid, are essential fatty acids. This means they cannot be synthesized by the body from other fatty acids and must be obtained from food. The most common fatty acids of each class are linolenic (18:3), EPA (20:5), DHA (22:6) for omega-3 and linoleic (18:2) and arachidonic (20:4) for omega-6. Some of the food sources of omega-3 fatty acids are fish and shellfish, flaxseed, walnuts, and canola oil. A computer software package, KIM (Keep it Managed) can be downloaded from http://ods.od.nih.gov/eicosanoids. This software evaluates the balance of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids in your diet. A scientific discussion of physiological effects of omega-3 fatty acids can be found on the American Heart Association Web site.
A9: Fatty acids are long carbon chain molecules and are part of the larger category called fats/lipids. Scientists differentiate fatty acids by the characteristics within the long chain of carbon molecules. The two principle forms of essential and conditionally essential fatty acids for humans are the omega-6 (n6) and omega-3 (n3) series. The number indicates the position of the first double carbon bond on the long chain. The omega-6 Series includes: Linoleic Acid (LA), Gamma Linolenic Acid (GLA), Dihomogamma Linolenic Acid (DLA), Arachidonic Acid (AA). GLA is found primarily in mother’s milk and in borage, black currant and evening primrose seeds. DGLA is also found in mother’s milk and some organ meats. AA is found in meats, dairy products, and some seafood. GLA is a prostaglandin precursor. Prostaglandins play a major role in regulating functions of every single organ in the body including maintaining the salt/water balance, insulin secretion, nerve conduction, gastrointestinal func