what purpose does omega 3 and 6 serve that other non essential fatty acids can't perform?


Senior Member
reading the benefits they all seem to be the same as other fatty acids like alpha lipoic acid. What do they turn into that's so important for the body? Are they just an extra layer of protection used incase your body becomes deficient in the other so your body makes use of it from the diet just as a precaution? The biggest thing I found is they are used to make cells but so can many other things. the fact your body doesn't make them and decided to get them from diet instead makes me think they are not as important as the ones made in the body. You cant deny that.
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The Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids are "essential" meaning, the body can't synthesize them and they are essential to life, so we have to get them from our diet.

They are a critical part of cell membranes and are polyunsaturated (their long hydrocarbon tails are not saturated with hydrogen), which translates into a tail with lots of bends in it, resulting in better cell membrane fluidity. Saturated fats, like butter, are made of hydrocarbon chains that stack on top of each other, and, thus, butter is solid. Polyunsaturated fat is made of bendy chains that won't stack and is liquid, like flax oil. This property carries over to our cell membranes and provides the cell membrane fluidity that is essential to cell membrane function and transport.

In addition, Omega-3 and Omega-6 are precursors to inflammatory mediators. Their fatty acid chains can be cleaved from cell membranes by an enzyme called Phospholipase A2 and then further metabolized into a class of inflammatory mediators broadly known as eicosanoids. Some of the eicosanoids may sound familiar as they include such things as thromboxanes, prostaglandins, and leukotrienes. This is the pathway that drugs like aspirin and ibuprofen work on to inhibit the formation of inflammatory eicosanoids by inhibition of an enzyme called COX. We call the fat-based inflammatory mediators eicosanoids. The protein-based inflammatory mediators we call cytokines.

So, the essential omegas are needed both for cell membranes and as eicosanoid precursors, and only they can fill this role. Incidentally, Omega-6 tends to be metabolized into inflammatory eicosanoids and Omega-3s tend to be metabolized into anti-inflammatory eicosanoids. This is why people say that increasing your Omega-3 to 6 ratio is anti-inflammatory.

Alpha-Lipoic Acid is actually not a fatty acid, but a fat-based antioxidant. It has some great properties, like being lipophylic and able to span across a cell membrane, which may be why many people find it helpful for neuropathy. It also has some chelation properties for heavy metals.


Senior Member
If you're reading marketing ads for supplements, they'll focus on some aspect that sounds desirable: boosts this, blocks that, makes you younger, etc, mostly based on bad science. As Shanti1 says, they have plenty of other, less fabulous for marketing, purposes in the body. Our cells evolved to use various nutrients and expect them in various amounts. Varying too far from the optimum amounts of those nutrients will likely result in less than optimum cell functions.

From my own experience, I can say that the different fatty acids do/have affected my ME symptoms. There was a period where palmitic acid made my symptoms worse, unless I added extra carnitine. Conjugated linoleic acid temporarily blocked my sensitivity to proline. At present, adding cis-linoleic acid improves my sleep patterns. I expect that many other people have similar responses to specific fatty acids.

This applies to amino acids too. For whatever reason, I've become sensitive to proline, which is a non-essential AA abundant in most foods. There are far too many reactions in the body using proline for me to figure out just how it's doing what it's doing. It doesn't even need to be an actual chemical reaction; a proline (or any other) molecule might just interfere with some other molecular reaction, like a stick jamming a machine. Minimizing my proline intake is worthwhile for me.

The important thing for PWME is to figure out which nutrients have a noticeable effect on their symptoms. We're all different, so we each have to experiment on ourselves. If omega-3 supplements provide you with a noticeable benefit, continue taking it. If it doesn't help, try something else. If it doesn't provide a benefit, but also not a detriment, and you've been convinced that the possible long-term benefits are worth the expense, that's your choice to make. I've definitely benefited from various supplements at various times, so I think it's worth the effort of trying things and paying attention to effects. The ones that didn't help, I didn't bother continuing to take.