- Both omega-6 and omega-3 are essential fatty acids, that is fats our body cannot produce from other substances. The balance of these particular fats plays a big role in modulating cellular inflammation, heart health, and brain function.
- Anthropological research indicates that ancient hunter-gatherers were free of the modern inflammatory diseases, like heart disease, cancer, and diabetes, that are the primary causes of death and morbidity today. Over the course of human evolution, there has been a dramatic change in the ratio of omega-6 and omega-3 fats consumed in the diet. This change, perhaps more than any other dietary factor, has contributed to the epidemic of modern disease. Diets were abundant in seafood and other sources of omega-3 long chain fatty acids, but relatively low in omega-6 seeds oils (ω-6/ω-3 ratio = 1:1).
- At the onset of the industrial revolution (about 140 years ago), there was a marked shift in the ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids in the diet. Consumption of omega-6 fats increased at the expense of omega-3 fats. This change was due to both the advent of the modern vegetable oil industry and the increased use of cereal grains as feed for domestic livestock (which, in turn, altered the fatty acid profile of meat that humans consumed).
- Today, estimates of the ratio omega-6/omega-3 range from 10:1 to 20:1, with a ratio as high as 25:1 in some individuals. Soybean, corn, and cottonseed oils are the worst oils to use for a healthy diet; olive oil is, instead, the one to prefer, being rich in monounsaturated oleic acid and low in omega-6.
- An excessive amount of omega-6 fatty acids is scientifically proven to cause chronic inflammation in human tissues, whereas a decent introduction of omega-3 in the diet counterbalance omega-6’s adverse effects by competing for the same conversion enzymes.
- Elevated omega-6 intakes are associated with an increase in all inflammatory diseases. The list includes (but isn’t limited to):
* cardiovascular disease
* type 2 diabetes
* metabolic syndrome
* irritable bowel syndrome & inflammatory bowel disease
* macular degeneration
* rheumatoid arthritis
* psychiatric disorders
* autoimmune diseases
- Big Pharma Industry is well aware of the effect of omega-6 on inflammation. In fact, the way over-the-counter and prescription anti-inflammatories (ibuprofen, aspirin, etc.) work is by reducing the formation of inflammatory compounds derived from omega-6 fatty acids.
- The question of how much omega-3 to eat depends in large part on how much omega-6 we eat. Ideally, we should start limiting the omega-6 intake before augmenting the omega-3 with the diet or specific supplements.
- The three most important omega-3 fatty acids are ALA (Alpha-Linolenic Acid), EPA (Eicosapentaenoic Acid), and DHA (Docosahexaenoic Acid). ALA is mostly found in plants (kale, spinach, purslane, walnuts, chia, flax and hemp seeds), while EPA and DHA are primarily found in seafood [fish (salmon, anchovies, tuna, mackerel, shrimps), krill (very small ocean dwelling crustaceans), and algae]. However, the human body has very scarce efficiency in converting ALA into EPA and DHA.
- There is a range of different omega-3 supplements available on the market today.
* Krill oil is one of the purest oils rich in omega-3. Since krill are minuscule and have a short lifespan, they don’t accumulate many contaminants during their lifetime.
* Green-lipped mussel oil contains several forms of omega-3s and is considered to be an environmentally friendly choice.
* Marine algae, particularly microalgae, is the greatest and purest source of EPA and DHA. Actually, the EPA and DHA in fish originate in algae, and are then eaten by smaller fish and move up the food chain. Algal oil may also contain essential minerals like iodine and it’s a valid source of omega-3 for vegetarians and vegans. Furthermore, algae are considered to be environmentally friendly and sustainable.
- For better absorption, read the labels of your omega-3 supplements and look for FFA (free fatty acids), TG, rTG (triglycerides and reformed triglycerides), and PLs (phospholipids), rather than EE (ethyl esters).
- Omega-3 supplements are better absorbed with a meal containing fat (for example, cheese, chocolate).