Omega 6 To Omega 3 Ratio
What Is A Healthy Omega 6 to Omega 3 Ratio?
The balance you are looking for, according to many experts, is between 2 and 4:1, Omega 6 to Omega 3. However, some experts would suggest an equal balance or even that you take in more Omega 3s than Omega 6s.
To truly understand the importance of your Omega 6 to Omega 3 ratio, and how you achieve the desired balance, you must know more about these two EFAs, which are also called polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs).
EFA. PUFA. OMG! (Better get used to the letter abbreviations, there are more coming.)
What are Omega 3s?
As you will read throughout this website, Omega 3 is an EFA. That means it is necessary for your health yet your body does not produce it. You must take in Omega 3 through the food you eat or by taking a supplement.
Why is Omega 3 important?
The critical forms of Omega 3, the ones that have been thoroughly tested and found to have multiple health benefits, are docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA).
DHA and EPA are involved in immune function, blood clotting, and cell growth and they are components of all of your cell membranes (and there are somewhere between 50 million and 100 trillion of those critters!).
Omega 3 is also a natural anti-inflammatory.
Deficiencies of Omega 3 have been linked to approximately 50 diseases including cancer, heart disease, diabetes, stroke, and arthritis.
There are both vegetable and animal sources of Omega 3.
The vegetable sources, mainly walnuts and flaxseeds, contain a type of Omega-3 called alpha-linolenic acid, or ALA, that your body must convert to EPA and DHA.
The most common animal sources of Omega 3 are cold water fish such as salmon, sardines, herring, mackerel, black cod, hoki and bluefish. These contain the more valuable EPA and DHA.
What are Omega 6s?
Omega-6 is a type of EFA that comes in various forms such as linoleic acid (LA) and arachidonic acid (AA, or sometimes ARA). (All these letter references are giving me a head ACHE.)
Why is Omega 6 important?
Omega-6 fatty acids play a crucial role in brain function as well as normal growth and development. They also help stimulate skin and hair growth, maintain bone health, regulate metabolism, and maintain the reproductive system.
As do Omega 3s, Omega 6s reduce the risk of heart disease.
However, Omega 6s tend to promote inflammation.
Sources of Omega 6
There are high concentrations of Omega 6 in all regular (not organic) meat such as beef and chicken, virtually all nuts, all cookies, cakes, commercial desserts and packaged snacks. (Hopefully, that’s not your regular shopping list!)
The Proper Omega 6 to Omega 3 Ratio
Both Omega 3 and Omega 6 are EFAs. You need them both in your diet.
But, as you have learned, there are differences. Omega 6s tend to produce inflammation while Omega 3s are natural anti-inflammatories. Also, Omega 6s cause “stickiness” in the blood which is good because it allows your blood to clot, but it can become bad if there is too much of it, leading to blood that clots too easily resulting in such things as strokes.
Therefore, the health key is to maintain a proper balance or ratio of Omega 6 to Omega 3.
What’s the magic ratio, you ask?
Throughout the history of mankind (personkind?), we have taken in Omega 6s and Omega 3s on an essentially 1:1 ratio. That is, until fairly recently.
Beginning somewhere between 50 and 100 years ago, people eating a so-called western diet (high in processed foods) have taken in approximately 20 times more Omega 6 than Omega 3!
(Incidentally, the Mediterranean diet, which does not include much meat and emphasizes foods rich in Omega-3 fatty acids such as whole grains, fresh fruits and vegetables, fish, olive oil, garlic, and moderate wine consumption, is much more balanced in terms of the Omega 6 to Omega 3 ratio.)
Today, most experts believe that a ratio of 2 to 4:1 Omega 6 to Omega 3 is an acceptable goal. Some experts advocate a 1:1 ratio and some others even recommend consuming more Omega 3s than Omega 6s.
Studies have shown that excessive amounts of Omega-6, and a very high omega-6/omega-3 ratio promote diseases such as cardiovascular disease, cancer, and inflammatory and autoimmune diseases. On the other hand, increased levels of Omega-3, and a low omega-6/omega-3 ratio, suppress those diseases.
The studies indicate that the optimal ratio may vary with the disease under consideration. Therefore, you should consult with your doctor on the proper ratio you should seek.
How Do You Balance Your Omega 6 and Omega 3 Intake?
If you suffer from eczema, psoriasis, arthritis, diabetes or mastalgia (breast tenderness) you may be deficient in Omega 6 and you should consult with your doctor to learn if you should be taking an Omega 6 supplement.
However, more often, especially if you eat a western diet, you probably need more Omega 3, less Omega 6, or both, in your diet.
To achieve that goal, you should eat more of the foods which are high in Omega 3s such as cold water fish, tuna, cod liver, halibut, herring, mackerel, trout, salmon, hoki and sardines.
And . . . you should eat less processed foods which are made of, or cooked in, vegetable oils.
If you cannot consistently eat a healthy ratio of Omega 6 to Omega 3, you should consider a pure, molecularly distilled Omega 3 fish oil supplement.