What’s Is An Omega-3 Fat?

If you pay any attention to Health & Wellness, I'm sure you've heard of Omega-3 fats. They are all the rage.

So what is an Omega-3 fatty acid? What is an Omega-6 fatty acid?

Great question!

I am definitely one of those "why" guys! I have to understand the mechanics behind the stuff before it starts to make sense.

So, without revisiting Organic Chemistry I in too much detail... here is my explanation of their structure and why they are called what they are called.

Triglycerides (aka triacylglycerol) are composed of 3 fatty acids & a glycerol backbone.

Free fatty acids are the fatty acids that are not attached to the glycerol molecule.

In organic chemistry, the carbons are numbered or identified by greek letters. The α carbon is the one closest to the end that will bond with the glycerol.

The tail carbon is called the Omega (ω) carbon.

Additionally, there are saturated and unsaturated fatty acids.

Saturated fatty acids have all single bonds (chemistry talk again). They cannot take on any more hydrogen molecules. This results in a relatively straight chain of the fatty acid. These will pack together pretty tight and results in a solid composition at room temperature. Butter, and most animal fats, are primarily saturated fats.

When you remove a couple of hydrogen molecules, you can form a double bond between carbons. This double bond changes the shape or structure of the fatty acid. It will be straight but with a kink in it. This kink makes the chain stick out and prevents the tighter packaging noted above.These are typically liquids at room temperature and referred to as oils.

The fatty acid is identified by the number of carbons and further categorized by the location of the double bond. In the case of Omega-3 fatty acids, the double bond is located 3 carbons up from the far end or tail. An omega-6 has a double bond 6 carbons up from the tail end.

I'll be talking more about these in the next few days. Stay tuned for more information on fatty acids and their health impacts.

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