Written by Benjamin Semmens, Registered Nutritionist (BHSc)
Hey guys, welcome back to another edition of Friday Q&A! Where every Friday our head nutritionist Ben digs through the latest research to give you an in-depth answer to your health and nutrition questions!
Last week Blake sent me an email asking, “Do I need to consume omega 9 fatty acids in the diet?” – right now you’re probably thinking what the heck is omega 9?!
Everyone is always talking about omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids and how important they are to improve your health, but why is no one talking about omega 9 fatty acids?
In this week’s Friday Q&A, Ben will give you the low down on omega 9 including what it is, the difference between omega 3, 6, 9 fatty acids, whether you should be consuming omega 9 in your diet and the how to eat fats the right way to benefit your health!
Congratulations to Blake who won a $20 gift voucher just for asking Ben a question! You can send your questions to email@example.com
What are omega fatty acids?
Omegas 3, 6, and 9 are unsaturated fatty acids that have various important roles in the body that include supporting heart health, brain health, bone health, and regulating inflammation.
Each type of omega has their own unique benefits that include:
- Supports healthy cell membranes
- Promotes brain health
- Supports eye health
- Improves heart health
- Supports brain development in infants (1)
- May reduce nerve pain
- Supports bone health
- May lower blood pressure
- May lower heart disease risk
- May help to alleviate symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis (2)
- May reduce heart disease risk
- Acts as a substitute in case of low levels of Omega 3 and 6 (3)
What’s the difference between omega, 3, 6, & 9 fatty acids?
Omega 9 fatty acids are monounsaturated fatty acids, while omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids are polyunsaturated (poly – meaning many) fatty acids that are different based on their chemical structures.
Photo credit: https://www.mdpi.com/1422-0067/21/12/4489/htm
Omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids are ‘essential’ fatty acids meaning that we need them from the diet as our bodies can’t produce them, while omega 9 can be produced in the body are therefore non-essential.
So, the question is do you really need omega 9 if your body can produce it?
What foods contain omega 9?
The most common type of omega 9 is oleic acid that is found in the highest amounts in olive oil. While, other sources of omega 9 fatty acids include canola oil, safflower oil, and even hemp seed oil.
How much omega 9 does hemp seed oil have? To give you an idea, olive oil contains around 70% omega 9 and 13 Seeds hemp seed oil contains approximately 12% omega 9, so olive oil contains around 6 times the amount omega 9 than hemp seed oil.
Are there any benefits in consuming omega 9?
Studies looking at omega 9 typically use olive oil because of its high oleic acid content. One study found that olive oil was associated with improved immune function (6).
Another 2013 study found that substituting monounsaturated fats for saturated fats in the diet was associated with increased daily physical activity, increased metabolism, and improved mood in young males (7).
Olive oil is consumed in large amounts in the Mediterranean diet that has shown to have many benefits for health and is linked to a decreased risk of chronic diseases that include heart disease, obesity, high blood pressure, diabetes, and brain disease (8).
However currently there is limited evidence of the direct role of oleic acid (omega 9 fatty acid) on health due to other nutrients that are also found in the Mediterranean diet (eg. antioxidants).
Should I be consuming omega 9 fatty acids?
Consuming omega 9 may have its own unique health benefits. However, keep in mind that your body can make it, what’s more important is getting your omega 3 to omega 6 balance right.
The ideal ratio for omega 3 to omega 6 is 1:3 that has been shown to be beneficial for health. However, having too much omega 6 in the diet is also linked with inflammatory conditions (9).
What fats should I be consuming to benefit my health?
Knowing what fats to consume in your diet can be confusing! But I’ll try my best to simplify it for you.
To make sure you’re getting the right type of fats in your diet you need to balance your omegas by consuming omega 3 foods more often. Omega 3 foods include hemp seeds, flaxseeds, algae, and fatty fish (eg. sardines, salmon, mackerel).
If you’re plant-based consume hemp seed oil, flaxseed oil, or algae oil daily. Alternatively, you can increase your omega 3 intake by eating fatty fish 2-3 times a week.
Olive oil is a great addition to the diet to increase your omega 9 intake and is a healthier cooking oil than other vegetable oils such as canola oil and safflower oil that are high in omega 6.
However, hemp seed oil contains omega 3, 6, and 9 and is a more diverse source of fatty acids so you’ve got all the boxes ticked!
Lastly, you want to be consuming higher amounts of unsaturated fatty acids than saturated fatty acids.
While saturated fats may not be as bad as we originally though, overconsumption of saturated fats has been associated with inflammation and heart disease (although this may be more so due to increased refined sugars and carbohydrates in the western diet!) (10).
While omega 9 fatty acids can be made in the body and are not essential in the diet, they may still have some unique benefits for your health.
Omega 9 is found in the highest amounts in olive oil and is used frequently in the Mediterranean diet that is associated with the reduced risk of heart disease, obesity, high blood pressure, diabetes, and brain disease.
Omega 9 can be easily consumed by using olive oil. However, hemp seed oil contains omega 9, with the added benefits of essential fatty acids omega 3 and omega 6, that could be considered a more diverse kitchen oil.
If you have any questions or need support with your health, feel free to email our head nutritionist Ben at firstname.lastname@example.org
This article does not constitute medical advice and does not take into consideration your personal circumstances. Please see your medical professional before implementing the above