There is heated debate going on about which fatty acids are healthy and what are the best sources of them. The debate reaches from curious minded to nutritionists to researchers. To filter out opinion based “facts” we looked for science-based clarification on balancing Omega 3 fats and Omega 6 fats. Most of all we looked at which omega fat is better for baby. Both fats are categorized as essential. That means they cannot be synthesized by the body, but must be ingested. Which is more critical to a baby’s health?
We Need the Right Balance of Both
Harvard Health Publishing research discovered both omega 3 and 6 polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) have special dietary and function properties. Oddly, the combination of omega 6 and 3 appeared more effective than either alone when relieving dermatitis or psoriasis. Yet this effective combination only worked for some genetic variations. Researchers are still trying to find answers on how to balance the omega PUFAs for best health. What they have discovered so far is not which, but the balance of both, that ensures the healthiest development of babies. Unfortunately, most Americans get a ratio of 13:1 or worse of omega 6 to omega 3. The desired ratio is around 4:1 at the highest.
Why Getting Enough Omega 3 Today is Critical
American diets are often loaded with processed foods yielding omega 6 but lacking fish meals. Seed and vegetable oils supply omega 6 fatty acids, but are low in omega 3 fatty acids. When you begin to realize our diets don’t usually supply enough omega 3 fatty acids you realize which fatty acid needs your attention.
What Are Omega 3 Fats?
Omega 3 fats are unsaturated fats. Specifically, they are alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), eicosatetraenoic acid (EPA), and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). These fatty acids are essential to brain, nerve and eye development in babies, with cardiovascular benefits entering by toddler years.. In all ages, Omega 3 fatty acids lower heart disease and keep immune systems healthy.
Sources of Omega 3 Fatty Acids
ALA is in human milk, plants oils like flaxseed, canola and soybean oils and fortified formulas. Formulas with fish oils, including salmon, mackerel, anchovies, sardines, arctic char or trout contain EPA and DHA fatty acids (FA)s. We need to remind you that if you are nursing your child, the amount of Omega 3 they ingest depends on how much you are ingesting. If you are a vegetarian or a junk food fan, you might want to talk to your doctor about supplements.
Why do we Need Omega 3 FAs
We need omega 3 in our systems because they are important components in membranes encompassing each cell in our bodies. They play a part in healthy heart, brain, eye, blood vessel, lungs and immune systems of our bodies. And they are part of our endocrine (glands) system which affect critical organs in the body. We need these fats, yet so many of us cut fats in our diet and in the diet of our children thinking we’re keeping healthy.
What are Omega 6 Fatty Acids
Omega 6 fats are also unsaturated fats. Both types of fatty acids are important for brain and nerve development in babies and children. These include Linoleic acid, (LA), Arachidonic Acid (ARA), Gamma linoleic (GLA), and Conjugated linoleic acid(CLA). While we still need Omega 6 in our diets, American diets commonly have more omega 6 FAs than omega 3 FAs. Both are essential. The body cannot manufacture either FA but in America, we typically ingest 15 times more omega 6 FAs than omega 3 FAs.
Sources of Omega 6 FAs?
You can find Omega 6 fats in soybeans, corn, safflower and sunflower oils, nuts and seeds, meat, poultry, fish, eggs and avocados. There are more, but these are the most common sources of omega 6.
Why Do we Need Omega 6 FAs?
These fats contribute to gene regulation and immune health as well as blood clotting. Omega 6 FAs stimulate skin and hair growth and regulate metabolism. They are also thought to help with rheumatoid arthritis and dermatitis, but more research is needed.
It isn’t a question of which Omega fatty acid your baby needs, but in what balance? The recommended balance of omega 6 to omega 3 fatty acids according to wholekids pediatrics is 4 to 1. That is the critical recommended balance, but how much should your baby get? Nordic Healthy Science article by Gina Jaeger PhD (Doctorate is in human development) recommended 500 to 800 mg of EPA+DHA daily for most babies. Unfortunately, a recent article published by National Library of Medicine stated: “…very few American children met even the lowest recommendations for EPA and DHA intake.” Sammy’s Milk is transparent about our ingredients and the amount of EPA and DHA per serving. Check it out and help your baby’s development stay on track.