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  • Writer's pictureJoan Rothchild Hardin

99% of Americans are Deficient in Omega-3 Essential Fatty Acids



Essential fatty acids (EFAs) are required for good health. While plants are capable of producing a variety of fatty acids, humans and other animals cannot and need to consume EFAs regularly.


There are two families of EFAs: Omega-3s and Omega-6s. The Standard American Diet (SAD) is very high in inflammatory Omega-6 and way too low in anti-inflammatory Omega-3, creating a state of chronic inflammation in our bodies.







Omega-3 essential fatty acids protect the body from chronic inflammation - and we know chronic inflammation is behind a slew of autoimmune diseases and conditions.


YET ALMOST ALL AMERICANS ARE SERIOUSLY DEFICIENT IN OMEGA-3 EFAs.




The Omega-3 status map below is from 2016 but there's no reason to think the situation is any better now.



OMEGA-3 DEFICIENCY INCREASES RISK OF NON-COMMUNICABLE DISEASES



The World Health Organization says non-communicable diseases are estimated to cause the death of approximately 38 million people worldwide every year. Omega-3 fatty acids (EPA and DHA in particular) have long been associated with decreased risk of cardiovascular conditions and cognitive decline. A significant proportion of the population is at increased risk of non-communicable diseases caused by omega-3 deficiency. (Eggersdorfer, 2016)


The message here is that consuming a healthy ratio of Omega-3s to Omega-6s greatly DECREASES our chances of developing cardiovascular disease, Alzheimer's and all the other autoimmune diseases and conditions that come from keeping our bodies in a chronic state of low level inflammation.


I've written a lot about autoimmune conditions and how to reverse them. Here are two of those articles:





MOST OF US CONSUME OMEGA-6s IN ABUNDANCE BUT GET FEW OMEGA-3s





Fish and other marine animals are unable to synthesize Omega-3 EFAs. They do however consume them by eating "micro algae, which synthesize them, or other marine organisms that have previously consumed micro algae."

(Papanikou, 2019)


Grass is another good source of alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), one of the three main Omega-3 fatty acids, so consuming a healthy amount of meat from grass-fed animals, their milk and eggs is helpful for adding enough Omega-3 to your diet.



OMEGA-6 ESSENTIAL FATTY ACIDS


"Omega-6 fatty acids are essential fatty acids. They are necessary for human health, but the body cannot make them. You have to get them through food. Along with omega-3 fatty acids, omega-6 fatty acids play a crucial role in brain function, and normal growth and development. As a type of polyunsaturated fatty acid (PUFA), omega-6s help stimulate skin and hair growth, maintain bone health, regulate metabolism, and maintain the reproductive system." (Mount Sinai, 2024)















A major culprit in most of our diets is the high level of inflammatory Omega-6-rich oils in processed and fast foods. High Omega-6 vegetable oils frequently used in processed and fried foods include corn, cottonseed and soybean oils. If you're someone with a high intake of these Omega-6 oils, you need to also add a high level of Omega-3s to your diet to keep your Omega-6 to Omega-3 ration in balance.



HEALTHY OMEGA-3 TO OMEGA-6 RATIO



Even better for your health would be to consume a lower level of inflammatory Omega-6 oils and a higher level of inflammation-reducing Omega-3 oils.


Research suggests that early humans' diets provided equal amounts of Omega-6 and Omega-3 fatty acids, creating a beneficial balance.


Eating what has become the typical Western diet of processed, fast and fried foods now means your Omega-6 to Omega-3 ratio is likely to be 20:1 - or even worse. (Berry, 2020)


Despite varying conclusions in the literature, in general, the ideal Omega-6 to Omega-3 EFA ratio is 4:1. "This means that you should aim to eat 4 grams of omega-3s for every 1 gram of omega-6." (Moore, 2022)


Although our bodies also need Omega-6s to function properly, we need a lot less of them than most of us consume. This graphic shows the Omega-6s to Omega-3s ratio of foods we are prone to consuming. You can see the EFA imbalances:




As David Jockers, Doctor of Natural Medicine specializing in Functional Nutrition and Natural Health Strategies, points out, "Nature doesn't make bad fats, factories do."



























FOODS RICH IN OMEGA-3 EFAs


Omega-3 Food Sources for Omnivores





















Omega-3 Food Sources for Vegans























OMEGA-3 VS OMEGA-6 ESSENTIAL FATTY ACIDS FOR SINUS HEALTH


Omega-3 essential fatty acids (EFAs) have a positive impact on sinusitis by reducing inflammation and supporting the immune system.


Omega-3 EFAs have anti-inflammatory properties while Omega-6 EFAs are inflammatory. We need both types of EFAs – the ideal ratio of Omega-3s to Omega-6s is less than 4:1. People who eat a Standard American Diet (SAD), consume a highly imbalanced ratio of 20:1 – creating a dangerous level of inflammation in their bodies.

 

Inflammation is a key driver of sinusitis symptoms. The Omega-3 fatty acids EPA & DHA inhibit the production of inflammatory compounds, reducing the severity of sinusitis symptoms – and also improve heart, brain & joint health. (Atkins Expert Sinus Care, 2023)



A MEDITERRANEAN DIET FOR A GOOD RATIO OF OMEGA-3 TO OMEGA-6


The Standard American Diet (SAD) delivers a high level of inflammatory Omega-6 fatty acids and a low level of anti-inflammatory Omega-3s. As a country, we under-consume fruits, vegetables, whole grains and clean dairy products while over-consuming sweets, processed carbohydrates, Omega-6 fats and foods that have few if any actual food value in them.

Standard American Diet (SAD): Unhealthy







Mediterranean Diet: Healthy




FARM RAISED VS WILD CAUGHT FISH


Factory Farmed Fish Tank


Fatty fishes are naturally high in Omega-3 fatty acids. An often-asked question is whether eating wild-caught fish is healthier than eating factory farm raised. The answer isn’t as obvious as it might seem.


On the one hand, factory farm raised fish have a higher fat content so might contain a higher level of Omega-3. Those white lines you see in salmon fillets like the fish on the left below are lines of fat.



 

The Omega-3 levels in factory farmed fish depend on what the fish are fed. Some fish farms raise their fish on a diet of grains. If the fish feed also includes high levels of Omega-3 fatty acids from fish oil and rapeseed oil added to their feed, the adult fish will also be high in Omega-3.


However, fish aren't meant to eat grains like corn or soy. The oil in these grains contain little or no Omega-3. Fish fed this type of diet can accumulate higher levels of unhealthy saturated fats in their bodies and also have a higher Omega-6 to Omega-3 ratio, creating inflammation in humans and other animals who eat them.


Farmed fish may contain high levels of contaminants such as PCBs and dioxins, which are harmful to their and human health.


Wild-caught fish may have varying levels of omega-3 fatty acids depending on their diet and habitat. Some species of wild-caught fish, such as salmon, are known to be rich sources of omega-3 fatty acids because their diet of plankton and small fish is rich in these nutrients.


"It's also worth noting that some studies have found that the omega-3 content of farmed fish can be lower than that of wild-caught fish, depending on the species and other factors. Additionally, farmed fish may contain higher levels of contaminants such as PCBs and dioxins, which can be harmful to human health.


Farmed fish are mostly grown in large, severely overcrowded containers, leading to their becoming infested with sea lice or other microbes. Diseases also spread more easily in crowded populations of a single fish species.

Wild fish get their Omega-3 from the marine lipids they consume. But a downside of eating wild caught fish is that

they're likely to contain a higher mercury level than factory farmed fish.


National Fisheries Institute, 2020


In the case of farm raised salmon, color is added to their diet to make the flesh pink to look more like wild salmon.

The Omega-3 content in both farmed fish and wild-caught fish can vary depending on the species, the diet of the fish and other factors.


Wild-caught fish "may have varying levels of omega-3 fatty acids depending on their diet and habitat. Some species of wild-caught fish, such as salmon, are known to be rich sources of omega-3 fatty acids because of their diet of

plankton and small fish that are themselves rich in these nutrients. (Down, 2016) & (Simon, 2020)


The takeaway is the answer to whether wild-caught or factory- farmed fish are healthier for eating isn’t clear – but what IS clear is our need to consume adequate amounts of Omega-3 EFAs to keep us healthy.





Since farm raised salmon live in enclosed containers so can't search for their food, "they’re fed kibble made from a hodgepodge that might include the oil and flesh of smaller fish (e.g. herring and anchovies), corn gluten, ground-up feathers, soybeans, chicken fat, and genetically engineered yeast." (Guilford, 2015)



OMEGA-3 & VITAMIN D


I've written a lot about the importance of Vitamin D in the body. This table compares Omega-3 essential fatty acids to Vitamin D, including a summary of why we need both & what happens when we're deficient in each:





RECOMMENDED DAILY INTAKE OF OMEGA-3 EFA AMOUNTS BY AGE






















CONSUMING ENOUGH OMEGA-3s

 

"The National Institutes of Health suggests consuming 1.1-1.6 grams of omega-3 fatty acids a day, while the American Heart Association recommends eating two servings of fish (3-4 ounces) a week as part of a heart-healthy diet. It takes about 4-5 ounces of Atlantic salmon to provide 3 grams of omega-3 fatty acids. Fish oil supplements typically provide about 300 milligrams per pill, though doses vary.


"Most of the studies reported on fish oil supplements rather than on EPA and DHA omega-3s consumed in food, which suggests supplements may be an alternative for those who cannot eat fatty fish such as salmon regularly," Li said. "Algae supplements with EPA and DHA fatty acids are also an option for people who do not consume fish or other animal products." (American Heart Association News, 2022)



Since I generally eat fatty fish less than twice a week, I take two capsules of this high quality, non-GMO Mega EFA supplement daily to make sure I have enough Omega-3 EFAs in my body. It doesn’t make me burp like some other fish oils have done in the past.


 I also avoid junk foods & huge amounts of other Omega-6-rich foods and keep my blood serum 25-hydroxy D level high (it's 96 at the moment), all in the interest of keeping the amount of inflammation in my body low..













INFLAMMATION IS THE ROOT CAUSE OF PRACTICALLY ALL CHRONIC HEALTH CONDITIONS



 

Could you please leave a comment if you found this post interesting? It would be much appreciated & would help spread the word.

The COMMENT box is at the bottom of the page, below the REFERENCES.



REFERENCES



Berry, J. (2020). What to know about omega-6 fatty acids. See: https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/omega-6-fatty-acids



Ecosh Life. (2024). OMEGA-3 FATTY ACIDS – The Amazing 23 Health Benefits of Omega-3 Fatty Acids Based on Science. See: https://ecosh.com/omega-3-fatty-acids-the-amazing-23-health-benefits-of-omega-3-fatty-acids-based-on-science/


Eggersdorfer, M. (2016). Mapping Public Health Benefits of Adequate Omega-3 Levels. Nutrifacts. See: https://www.nutri-facts.org/en_US/news/articles/Mapping-Public-Health-Benefits-of-Adequate-Omega-3-Levels.html


Guilford, G. 3/15/2015. The Costliest Part of Feeding Farmed Salmon: A Pill That Turns Them Pink. The Atlantic. See: https://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2015/03/the-costliest-part-of-feeding-farmed-salmon-a-pill-that-turns-them-pink/387586/


Hardin, J.R. (2021). Autoimmunity: How It Develops Over Time. See: https://www.allergiesandyourgut.com/post/autoimmunity-how-it-develops-over-time


Hardin, J.R. (2020). How To Reverse Autoimmune Disease. See: https://www.allergiesandyourgut.com/post/how-to-reverse-autoimmune-disease-1


Papanikou, E. (2019). Major sources of omega-3 fatty acids for animal feeds: The animal feed industry is looking to omega-3 fatty acids as a way to produce enriched products for humans, such as eggs and possibly meat. Feed Strategy. See: https://www.feedstrategy.com/blogs/feed-ingredient-insights/blog/15444667/major-sources-of-omega-3-fatty-acids-for-animal-feeds


Simon, D.R. (2020). 7 Things Everyone Should Know About Farmed Fish. See: https://www.mindbodygreen.com/articles/what-to-know-about-farmed-fish



© Copyright 2024 Joan Rothchild Hardin. All Rights Reserved.

 

DISCLAIMER:  Nothing on this site or blog is intended to provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.



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