Omega fatty acids part 1: why are they so highly touted everywhere??

Omega fatty acids part 1: Why are they so highly praised everywhere?

The dear topic of fat.
Which is healthy, which is not? How much do I need? Even the scientific community is still in disagreement. Fat is a very complex topic. Today I want to give you an understanding of unsaturated fatty acids, namely omega fatty acids. Fat is important in the daily diet, but as already mentioned here: not all fats are the same!
In all contributions it is recommended to take more omega fatty acids to itself. Why? What are omega fatty acids? Do I have to take capsules to cover my needs??

What are omega fatty acids?

As you can see from the name, omega-3 fatty acids are fats (lipids). Initially (before approx. 100 years ago), fat was considered a good source of energy, but in the eyes of scientists it was not essential. Carbohydrates, proteins and vitamins were considered essential – but fat was not.

At the end of the 1920s, however, a certain George Oswald Burr ventured a thesis that was viewed with skepticism at the time. Based on his experiments, he argued that fat was essential to life, emphasizing linoleic acid (an omega-6 fatty acid) in particular. The statement was viewed with great caution, as the body can produce fatty acids from carbohydrates itself and thus might not be essential in the eyes of scientists at the time.

Today, many years and many experiments later, it is believed that we are a little further along. Burr should be right with his statement. Even without knowing the exact metabolic pathway, Burr had made observations that showed him the importance of this fatty acid (more about this in my next blog entry). Later, another vital fatty acid was discovered. According to the current state of knowledge, there are two essential fatty acids, which must be supplied with food.

But first a little background knowledge to understand:

Fats can be classified based on the number of their double bonds:

Classification of fatty acids according to the number of double bonds

Classification of fatty acids according to the number of double bonds

In addition to the number of double bonds (see above), the unsaturated fatty acids also distinguish by the position of the double bond.

Classification of unsaturated fatty acids according to the position of the double bond

Classification of unsaturated fatty acids according to the position of the double bond

The omega indicates the position of the first double bond to. It is counted from the end (omega=end), i.e. from the methyl group (opposite the acid head = carboxy group).
Tip: Omega is also often abbreviated as n. For example, if you read linoleic acid (n=6), it means that linoleic acid is an omega-6 fatty acid.

omega bond

A non-specific omega-3 fatty acid to clarify what the omega means

Shown is an omega-3 fatty acid. It is only meant as an example – I have not recorded a specific fatty acid here now.

Omega fatty acids on everyone’s lips – why??

In the media or in advertising, it is mainly the omega-3 fatty acids that are praised or there is simply talk of healthy "omega fatty acids. However, I have not seen any advertisement in which "with saturated fatty acids" is advertised.

Humans, or rather. the mammals have an enzyme system with which they can bind from the 7. carbon atom (counting from the methyl group) can incorporate a double bond. But not before, so omega-3 and omega-6 are essential fatty acids, i.e. you have to get them from your diet.

Essential fatty acids are linoleic acid (n-6) and alpha-linolenic acid (n-3).

Of course, advertising takes advantage of this. But the reference "with omega fatty acids" does not automatically make the product healthier or better. Do not be fooled! Also, dietary supplements are not necessarily needed to meet the requirement. A healthy person with a balanced and varied diet can cover the requirements wonderfully through food. The situation may be different in case of illness – but even there, a lot can often be done with the right combination of foods. A great side effect is that you can’t overdose on them if you take them with natural foods. The body can regulate so much itself! This is always fascinating!

The ratio is crucial

Some of you may wonder why you read so much about omega-3 fatty acids, but less about omega-6. But the linoleic acid (n=6) is also essential!
This is absolutely correct, but here another factor plays an important role. The ratio of omega-3 fatty acids to omega-6 fatty acids is important. Due to our food production (agriculture – especially cereals, industry, greater availability of meat, etc.), they are not available in our diet.) this ratio has shifted extremely. Nowadays, we consume significantly more omega-6 fatty acids than in the past. Omega-6 fatty acids are found in many plant foods such as cereals, meat and dairy products, and also in sunflower oil and safflower oil, for example. Omega-3 fatty acids, on the other hand, are found in fish, especially in fatty fish such as salmon, herring, mackerel, but also in flaxseed, hemp, walnuts or chia seeds, for example. The list is of course not complete. But if everyone stops for a moment and thinks about what they eat throughout the day, most people will certainly have an excess of omega-6 fatty acids.

What are the omega fatty acids necessary for??

Polyunsaturated fatty acids, which include omega fatty acids, are essential for ALL cell walls. Especially in Brain, in Nerve cells and in Eye (Retina) they are indispensable. Not without reason are nuts often called nerve or brain food.

A intact cell wall Is important for communication between cells, but also for the transport of molecules, nutrients and signals across the membrane. Due to the structure of the unsaturated fatty acids, they provide a certain fluidity of the membrane, which is necessary for the supply and signal transduction. This fluidity depends on the fatty acid pattern of the cell membrane (more omega fatty acids means higher fluidity), which is strongly influenced by the composition of the diet.

While proteins are assembled according to a "template" on the DNA, i.e. are genetically predetermined, the fatty acid pattern of the cell membrane is predominantly dependent on the food supplied to it.

Even with the Gene transcription, i.e. in the reading of DNA, polyunsaturated fatty acids play a role.

Furthermore, they are precursors of certain molecules involved in inflammatory processes in the body. Where omega-3 fatty acids and omega-6 fatty acids appear to play different roles. While omega-3 fatty acids anti-inflammatory While omega-6 fatty acids have the same effect as nuts, they seem to have exactly the opposite effect. They are in fact pro-inflammatory.

In summary, however, this means that omega fatty acids are also the Immune System Influence.

After this brief overview of omega fatty acids in general, next time I want to cover the 2 essential fatty acids: Linoleic acid (n=6) and alpha-linolenic acid (n=3). Here I will deal among other things with the metabolism and explain why a balanced relationship of these two fatty acids is so important.


Kim van Elst, Hilgo Bruining, Barbara Birtoli, Christian Terreaux, Jan K. Buitelaar, Martien J. Kas, Food for thought: Dietary changes in essential fatty acid ratios and the increase in autism spectrum disorders, Neuroscience& Biobehavioral Reviews, 2014; 45: 369-378,

Spector AA, Kim H-Y. Discovery of essential fatty acids. Journal of Lipid Research. 2015;56(1):11-21. doi:10.1194/jlr.R055095.

Simopoulos A. Evolutionary aspects of diet, the omega-6/omega-3 ratio and genetic variation: nutritional implications for chronic diseases. Biomedicine& Pharmacotherapy. 2006; 60 (9):502-7

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Meet: Denise, with great enthusiasm for healthy, delicious but also balanced nutrition. With profound knowledge from my biology studies and training as a nutritionist, I want to show you the effects that food has on the body.

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