Essential Fatty Acids (EFA's)

Ratio of omega-6:omega-3   Omega-3   Omega-6

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 and cancer.
  • 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

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.
  • Daily Need: 1500mg-3000mg/daily
  • Related Conditions: Glaucoma, Macular Degeneration
  • 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.

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Omega-6 Fatty Acids

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. For more information on omega-6 fatty acids, see this article.

  • Foods: Human mother's milk, evening primrose, borage and black currant oils, poultry, eggs, avocado, nuts, cereals, whole grains.
  • Daily Need: 1500mg/daily
  • Related Conditions: Glaucoma, Macular Degeneration

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Footnotes

1. The importance of the ratio of omega-6/omega-3 essential fatty acids, Simopoulos, AP, Biomedical Pharmacoltherapy, Oct., 2002, 365-79.