Name: Jim Stoppani, PhD
Occupation: Creator of JYM Supplement Science, fitness coach and consultant
QI'm convinced that omega-3 supplements are legit. But, is it best to take omega-3 on its own, or as part of an omega 3-6-9 supplement?
I've been getting this question a lot lately. After all, it seems to make sense that getting a variety of healthful and essential fats in one supplement is better than a supplement that is limited to just one type of fat. Nevertheless, my quick answer is to stick with just an omega-3 supplement. The reason isn't a problem with 3-6-9 supplements themselves, but rather with the way most of us eat.
The Alpha Omega
I'm all about matching up the right supplement precisely to the right athlete and his or her goals. However, if there's one supplement that I recommend for anyone and everyone, it's fish oil, or more specifically, the omega-3 fatty acids eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). And I mean everyone: your grandmother, your father, your sister, your nephew, and even your kids.
Omega-3 supplements provide far too many health benefits to ignore. These include reduced risk of heart disease, diabetes, and cancer, as well as enhanced brain and joint function, just to name a few. They also have muscle-building and fat-loss benefits for athletes. And despite what you may have read in the headlines earlier this year, they're safe.
Like omega-3 fats, omega-6 fats are essential in the diet, and they provide numerous health benefits, but there's a major difference: Because omega-6 fats are commonly found in vegetable oils, nuts, and grain-fed meats, they aren't a fat most Americans are deficient in. This is problematic because, despite being essential, these fats can become downright unhealthy when the ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 gets higher than 4:1.
Consistently eating a diet that is higher than this ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fats may contribute to the development of heart disease, cancer, asthma, arthritis, as well as depression. Plus, it can prevent optimal muscle recovery and growth, as well as inhibiting fat loss. Sadly, most American and European diets put people well over this 4:1 ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fats. When the ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fats is closer to 1:1, the risk of these diseases is significantly decreased, and muscle growth and fat loss are enhanced.
Like the omega-3 and omega-6 fats, the omega-9 fats also provide health benefits, namely anti-inflammatory properties that enhance joint healing and may help prevent numerous diseases. But unlike omega-3 and omega-6, the omega-9 fatty acids are not essential fats. This means that your body can produce them on its own. Plus, the omega-9 fats are also found in olive oil and other vegetable oils. So, if you include olive oil in your diet, which you should, you are likely getting adequate amounts of omega-9 fats.
Supplement What Your Diet Lacks
I understand the reasoning for a 3-6-9 supplement: Since the proper ratio is so important, why not supplement in that ratio? But the truth is that the only thing wrong with most people's omega fats ratio is too little omega-3s. Supplementing with omega-6 fats, even in a 3-6-9, will only further reinforce the bad ratio for them. After all, omega-3-6-9 supplements generally have only 10-20 percent the amount of omega-3 fats as omega-3 fish oil supplements.
My advice is to skip the omega-9 supplements and focus on supplementing with an omega-3, like fish oil. In addition, regularly use olive oil for cooking and in salad dressings. If you do this, you'll get a proper ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fats and still take in adequate amounts of omega-9s. Plus you'll get all the benefits that come with these fats.
I recommend taking a minimum of 6 grams of omega-3s in the form of fish oil every day, split between two or three doses of 2-3 g apiece. If you really want to be precise on your dosing, aim to take 1,500 mg of DHA per day. Your fish oil supplement should tell you how much DHA and EPA are in each capsule. Getting in 1,500 mg of DHA will also net you an adequate amount of EPA, which is in higher amounts in fish oil than DHA.