Fatty acids, which are not naturally produced by the body, are available only through food sources
such as fish and plant oils. They are a critical contributor to good vision and general health.
Metabolized fatty acids, like glucose, are cell fuel sources. Linoleic acids (ALA) comprise the
omega-6 fatty acids (good sources are borage and black currant seed oils). Alpha-linoleic (ALA) acids, mostly from seed oils and fish, comprise the omega-3 fatty acids.
Ratio of omega-6 to omega-3
Researchers have found that the ratio of omega-6:omega-3 in the diet is important to health and have concluded that
the ideal ratio is tied to the type of condition and its severity.1 Modern western diets that include high amounts of carbohydrates particularly related to
high intake of refined carbohydrates have created a dramatic imbalance in the omega-6:omega-3 fatty acid balance thought to result in a greater increase
in chronic inflammatory health conditions.
It is thought that humans evolved with a ratio of 1:1 omega-6 to omega-3.
Diets in western industrial countries average a ratio of 15:1 to 17:1
Excessive amounts of omega-6 are connected to heart disease, autoimmune conditions, cancers, and diseases involving inflammation
such as arthritis.
Higher proportions of omega-3 are tied to reductions in heart disease, autoimmune and inflammatory condtions
A ratio of 4:1 was found to lower heart disease deaths.
A ratio of 2.5:1 was found to combat colorectal cancer, while a proportion of 4:1 had no effect.
Similarly a lower proportion of omega-6:omega-3 was connected to decreased risk of breast cancer.
A ratio of 2-3:1 lessened symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis
A ratio of 5:1 helped asthma patients while a ratio of 10:1 made their condition worse
A ratio of 4-5:1 (Mediterranean diet) protected against neovascular ARMD.2
Omega 3 Fatty Acids
Omega 3 fatty acids are essential for nerve conduction in the retina and to reduce cholesterol.
They operate in the body as fuel for metabolism and muscle action. Important omega-3 fatty acids
include eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). EPA & DHA are vitally important for a
healthy nervous system. They can reduce risk of macular degeneration by 45%, reduce gum disease by 20%,
and reduce the risk of breast cancer. DHA, which the fetus gets through the placenta, supports healthy
fetal development. DHA may also protect against development of Alzheimer's.
Food Sources: Seed oils are the richest sources of omega-3 fatty acids: flax seed, black current oil, chia seed, walnuts and other seeds.
Cold water fish (herring, sardines, anchovies, tuna, salmon, halibut, mackerel), dark leafy vegetables, eggs (preferably organic), spices
(including fennel, mustard, fenugreek and cumin). Note: If you are supplementing with fatty acids from fish oil, choose fish oils that
come from small fish at the bottom of the food chain because these fish will have accumulated less mercury and toxins than the larger fish at the top of the food chain. Caution: Fish oil has a slight blood thinning quality. If you are on any blood thinning medications or find after you start supplementing with fish oil you start having symptoms such as nosebleeds or increased bruising, please speak with your doctor before adding or continuing with fish oil.
Note: Any time oils are increased in the diet, for example by eating nuts or using lots of cooking oils, be sure to increase
intake of vitamins A, B3, B6, C, E and minerals zinc, selenium, and manganese for proper absorption.
Omega-6 fatty acids protect one's eyes and other cells from deterioration, help reduce inflammation
throughout the body and play a crucial role in brain function and normal growth. These fats
are not produced by the body so need to be taken in through food or supplements. Some omega-6
fatty acids promote inflammation, so should be avoided. The "good" omega-6 fatty acids are GLA
(gamma-linoleic acid) found in primrose oil, borage oil and black current seed oil.
The inflammatory omega-6 fatty acids are found more in vegetable oils. These oils
contain high amounts of linoleic acid should be mostly avoided except for olive oil.
Note that, as discussed above, the ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 should not be much higher than 4-5:1. For most people there is enough omega-6 in a healthy
Foods: Human mother's milk, evening primrose, borage and black currant oils, poultry, eggs, avocado, nuts, cereals, whole grains.
Although both EPA and DHA are abundant in many types of fish, some types of fish have more of one or more of the other omega-3 fatty acid.
Fish with more DHA. DHA is most important for prenatal support since DHA enhances brain development. Women who are pregnant or nursing may want to favor
fish that have more DHA such as sardines, wild-caught salmon, rainbow trout or tuna. But note that fish that are high on the food chain and/or long-lived such as tuna contain a higher level of mercury. So it will
be better to favor sardines and trout, and occasionally salmon (even wild-caught salmon has contains some mercury. The American Pregnancy Association recommends that
you avoid Gulf of Mexico tilefish, swordfish, shark and king mackerel. If you eat tuna then they recommend that you don't exceed 6 oz of tuna weekly.
Fish with more EPA. People who are suffering from osteoporosis or bone loss, those with joint conditions, and those who must take cortiocosteroids should considering favoring
fish with high levels of EPA. These include herring, salmon, eel and sturgeon (check the source, since sturgeon may come from contaminated water.
per serving amounts
Mercury (mean PPM)
Rainbow trout (farmed)
White tuna (canned)
Light tuna (canned)
By way of comparison, these are the fish that have high levels of mercury
Gulf of Mexico mackerel
Gulf of Mexico tilefish
* Note that Atlantic salmon is grown in fish farms and is contaminated by PCBs.
1. A. P. Simopoulos, , The importance of the ratio of omega-6/omega-3 essential fatty acids, Biomedical Pharmacoltherapy, Oct., 2002
2. T.C. Mance, D. Kovacevic, et al, The role of omega6 to omega3 ratio in development and progression of age-related macular degeneration, Collegium, Antropologicum, September, 2011.