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Omega-3 and Omega-6 Ratio- Why Does it Matter?

Lipids (commonly called ‘Fats’) are a diverse group of molecules- learn more about how our ratio of various types of fats are important to maintaining health.

Since lipids (fats) are the primary component of the membrane that surrounds each cell in our bodies, it’s no wonder that the intake of healthy fats helps our bodies remain healthy.

The focus of this video is the category of lipids called Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids (PUFAs). PUFAs can be split into several categories and in this video we explore the difference in Omega 3 fats and Omega 6 fats.

Omega 6 Fats:

This type of PUFA can be anti-inflammatory but when consumed in excess it quickly becomes pro-inflammatory (causing inflammation and oxidation in the body).  Chronic inflammation has been shown in research to elevate risk of health problems like heart disease, metabolic syndrome, diabetes, arthritis, Alzheimer’s disease, and certain types of cancer.

Omega 3 Fats:

Omega-3 fatty acids are a sub-category of PUFAs as well and are generally considered to be anti-inflammatory in our bodies. There are three main types of Omega-3 fatty acids in our bodies that have known health implications: ALA, EPA, and DHA.

Alpha-linolenic acid  (ALA) is the shortest of the Omega-3s and can be used to build EPA. Unfortunately, the conversion rate of ALA to EPA is very poor with an estimated 1-10% being converted, depending on what research you’re looking at. This is also the primary source of intake of Omega-3s for most Americans with dietary sources including  flaxseed oil, canola oil, chia, hemp, English Walnuts, and soybean oil.

Eicasapnetenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) come mainly from fish so they are sometimes referred to as marine omega-3s. EPA is highly anti-inflammatory in the body and can also be used to make DHA, which is found in high concentrations in your brain and in your retina. A few health benefits of EPA/DHA found in research include healthier/stronger bones, improved mood regulation, reduced risk of Parkinson’s disease, reducing symptoms of Lupus and other autoimmune diseases including  Multiple Sclerosis.

Omega-3 fatty acid deficiencies in general have been linked to increased inflammation, depression, weight gain and diabetes, allergies and eczema, and memory problems and dyslexia.

Ratio of Omega-3 to Omega-6 Fatty Acids:

Most researchers agree that a 1:1 ratio or a 5:1 ratio of Omega-6s to Omega-3s is ideal for health.  Currently, many Americans are consuming a ratio that is closer to 20:1 due to the rise in the consumption of processed vegetable oils in cooking and in packaged foods.

Examples of sources of Omega-6 Fatty acids includes corn oil, canola oil, soybean oil, hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated fats, cottonseed oil, margarine, and shortening .

Signs and symptoms that your Omega-6 to Omega-3 ratio may be out of balance include fatigue, poor wound healing, problems learning, cracked skin on heels or fingertips, lowered immunity and frequent infections, and dry/flaky skin.

How do you improve your Omega-6 to Omega-3Ratio in your food choices?

  1. Start eliminating processed foods and processed oils that have been refined and heated such as margarine, corn oil, safflower, sunflower, soy oil, and hydrogenated oils.
  2. Your body does need some omega-6 fatty acids so obtain these from free range or grass fed meats that are higher in omega-6 like CLA. REMEMBER: The ideal ratio is a 1:1 ratio, not a 0:1 ratio!
  3. Consume unprocessed oils such as extra virgin olive oil, coconut oil, and avocado oil.
  4. Consume raw nuts and seeds such as organic flax seeds, chia seeds, sunflower seeds, sesame seeds, pumpkin seeds, almonds, and English walnuts.
  5. Consume egg yolks from pastured hens which are rich in omega-3s

Please remember that increasing Omega-3 fatty acids alone is not enough to achieve the full health benefits of Omega-3 fatty acids- we also have to decrease the Omega-6 intake using the tips above. Omega-3 supplementation should be implemented as a part of a total nutrition plan which should include eliminating refined/processed foods and excess sugar and focus on whole foods including fresh produce and organic meats.

Watch the video above for more detail and to learn more about why organic and pasture raised animal protein is recommended!

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