Essential fats: Omega 3 to Omega 6 ratio

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There are two essential fatty acids that are required from our diet, as they cannot be produced by our body; alpha-linolenic acid, which is an Omega 3 fatty acid, and linoleic acid, which is an Omega 6 fatty acid. They are the precursors to prostaglandins, thromboxanes, eicosanoids and leukotrienes which have widespread hormonal functions in the body.

Omega 6 fatty acids are very plentiful and are found in most nuts, seeds and grains and their oils, and as well as in conventional meats that have been fed grain rather than grass.

Most people consume far too much Omega 6 relative to Omega 3 – a ratio of about 20 to 1 when the ratio for optimal health should be about 4 to 1. Too much Omega 6 interferes with the ability to process Omega 3, as well as it tends to increase inflammation, blood clotting and blood pressure among other things. Unless there is a specific reason to the contrary, one should not need to actively seek out extra sources of Omega 6. (Another reason to stop eating foods with polyunsaturated vegetable oils on the label!) Instead it is important to ingest more Omega 3s. Omega 3s are critical to brain and nerve development in children, brain and nerve maintenance in adults, and are said to have anti-inflammatory properties.

Good food sources of Omega 3s are organic ground flax seeds, organic chia seeds, organic walnuts, and organic unrefined flax oil. (Keep the flax oil in a dark bottle in the fridge as it is very unstable. Note the expiry date, and only use it cold in salad dressings, smoothies, or by the spoonful.) Grass fed meats have much higher levels of Omega 3s than grain fed do.  Fatty fish like wild salmon, herring, mackerel, anchovies, sable fish, oysters, shrimp, eel, roe and cod liver oil are good sources of DHA and EPA, conditionally essential Omega 3s in those that are unable to make the conversion from the essential Omega 3 fatty acid.

That’s it on fats for a while. If you want more information on fats and cholesterol etc., look at the books below, go to The Truth About Saturated Fat on Dr. Mercola’s website, or google Mary Enig to learn more about the virtues of virgin coconut oil and other various topics on fats and oils.

Enig, Mary; Know Your Fats: The Complete Primer For Understanding the Nutrition of Fats, Oils, and CholesterolBethesda Press, Silver Spring, MD, 2003

Chek, Paul; How to Eat, Move and Be Healthy! Chek Institute, San Diego, CA, 2004.

www.wellnesstips.ca

2 Comments »

  1. Vivien said,

    October 20, 2013 @ 12:01 pm

    Until very recently, I’d have agreed completely with your thoughts here.
    I thought I was balancing my omegas well, but was plagued with a dry eye and then a dry mouth. I mentioned this to my doctor and he suggested taking evening primrose oil. It really has helped so much.
    I then came across information on a condition called pyroluria which mentions the need for EPO over Omega 3. I’m not sure whether I have this condition, but certainly relate to many of the symptoms.
    Then I came across the following web site: http://www.brianpeskin.com. This chap seems to have a very different view of what constitutes a good balance of the omegas and I’d be very interested in your thoughts.
    Incidentally, I very much value your views, also those of Mary Enig and the Weston A Price website.

  2. Vreni said,

    October 20, 2013 @ 12:51 pm

    Hi Vivien,

    I think that what you are suggesting is not in conflict with my post. We do need 4-1 ratio of omega 6 to 3. But omega 6 like omega 3 is very fragile, and almost all omega 6 on the market has been heated and is therefore rancid. Here I am talking about cooking oils, roasted nuts, baked breads etc. Consuming undamaged omega 6 is actually not easy to do. Evening Primrose Oil is a great source of good quality omega 6, and can be very beneficial, but I see that as different than the vast quantities of omega 6 in our food supply. If the source of your omega 6 is greater than your omega 3, and you are avoiding other plant-based polyunsaturated cooking oils, I would think you would be doing fine. Does that make sense?

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