Omega-3 versus Omega-6 Fatty Acids
The story of Omega-3 versus Omega-6 fatty acids for our health stated in its simplest form (Gunnars, 2014):
A diet low in Omega-3s but high in Omega-6 but low in Omega-3 produces excessive inflammation.
A diet that includes a balanced amount of each reduces inflammation.
People eating the Standard American Diet (SAD) are consuming a much higher level of Omega-6s relative to Omega-3s and the excessive inflammation resulting from this imbalance causes a whole range of serious health problems – including heart disease, metabolic syndrome, diabetes, arthritis, Alzheimers, many types of cancers, and others.
Metabolic Syndrome: Conditions occurring together (high blood pressure, high blood sugar level, excess fat around the waist, abnormal cholesterol levels) that increase the risk of heart disease, stroke and diabetes.
Both Omega-6 and Omega-3 essential fatty acids are poly-unsaturated types of oils the human body doesn’t have the enzymes to produce for itself so we must get them from our diets or supplements. These types of fatty acids differ from most other fats in that they are not simply used for energy. They are biologically active, playing essential roles in processes such as blood clotting and inflammation. Without both Omega-3s and Omega-6s in proper ratio, we are highly likely to become sick.
EFFECTS OF OMEGA-3 DEFICIENCY BENEFITS OF OMEGA-3 ESSENTIAL FATTY ACIDS (Watson, 2014) Omega-3 essential fatty acids support heart, brain and mental health; reduce cancer risk and help cancer patients recover; help prevent and ease arthritis; reduce the risk of eye problems; and keep the skin and scalp healthy.
Omega-3s and Heart Health. OMEGA-3s FOR HEART HEALTH
Help lower cholesterol levels
Reduce triglycerides (unhealthy fats in the blood) by as much as 30%. High triglyceride levels are linked to an increased risk for cardiovascular disease.
Decrease the risk of arrhythmias (abnormal heartbeats) which can lead to sudden death
Can help prevent blood clots from forming, breaking off and blocking an artery to the heart (causing a heart attack) or an artery to the brain (causing a stroke
Can slightly lower blood pressure – high blood pressure is another risk factor for heart disease.
Reduce inflammation all over the body, helping prevent blocked arteries.
Prevent the re-narrowing (re-stenosis) of coronary arteries after angioplasty surgery.
OMEGA-3 AND CANCER
Fish oils, high in Omega-3 fatty acids, have been found to suppress the grown of certain types of cancers in animals.
May reduce the risk of hormone-fueled cancers such as breast cancer
May inhibit the growth of lung, prostate and colorectal cancers.
May help cancer patients survive their disease
Since there is a known link between excessive inflammation in the body and the development of certain cancers, Omega-3s likely reduce the risk of developing all cancers.
Omega-3 fatty acid is a crucial nutrient for the brain and for good mental health. Countries where people eat more fish report fewer cases of depression. OMEGA-3 AND MENTAL HEALTH
Omega-3 fatty acids promote blood flow in the brain and are essential for brain health.
People getting insufficient Omega-3s in their diet are at increased risk of developing dementia, depression, ADD, dyslexia and schizophrenia.
Omega-3s keep the synapses (tiny gaps across which nerve impulses must pass) in the brain working properly. Nerve impulses need to get through the membrane surrounding the neurons in the brain – and the cell membranes are made mostly of fats, including Omega-3s.
Omega-3 fatty acids improve learning and memory.
They improve mood in people who are depressed.
They fight age-related cognitive decline due to dementia.
Infants require DHA so their brains develop properly, especially during the first two years of life.
A study found that babies born to mother with higher DHA blood levels scored higher on tests of attention and learning than those whose mothers had lower DHA levels.
Another study found that children of mothers who had taken fish oil supplements during pregnancy had higher IQs than the children of mothers who took a placebo.
Roasted Cauliflower for Arthritis: A cup of cauliflower contains 0.2 grams of Omega-3s – 8% of the recommended daily value. OMEGA-3 AND ARTHRITIS
Arthritis is the result of the immune system’s autoimmune (abnormal) response to the body’s own joints – as if they were infectious agents, foreign invaders needing to be destroyed. The resulting inflammation produces swollen, stiff, painful joints.
Omega-3 fatty acids reduce inflammation throughout the body.
The body also converts Omega-3s to even more potent anti-inflammatory compounds such as resolvins (a family of bioactive products).
Arthritic patients taking Omega-3s have been able to reduce – or even stop – using corticosteroids and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs).
Foods containing Omega-3 fatty acids (including salmon, flax seeds, and walnuts) have been known to give skin an almost instant glow. OMEGA-3 AND THE SKIN
Omega-3 fatty acids, especially eisosapentaenoic acid (EPA), are essential for healthy skin and hair. EPA helps regulate oil production, keeping the skin hydrated.
Omega-3s protect the skin from damaging ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun. UV exposure produces harmful substances called free radicals, which damage cells and can lead to premature aging and cancer. Omega-3s act as an antioxidant protecting the body from these free radicals.
Omega-3s also help repair skin damage by preventing the release of enzymes that destroy collagen.
Research suggests that Omega-3’s help prevent certain types of skin cancer.
The anti-inflammatory properties of Omega-3s help relieve autoimmune responses expressed through the skin – such as rosacea, psoriasis and eczema.
Insufficient Omega-3 levels can cause the scalp to get dry and flaky (dandruff) and the hair to lose its luster.
Omega-3s can also be given to pets to improve their skin and coat health.
“Omega-3 fatty acids are most important, as they bring balance to our hormones, reduce inflammation, regulate our blood sugar, prevent blood clotting, keep our cholesterol and triglycerides in balance, relax our blood vessels, and and make our cells healthy and resilient.”– The Natural Hormone Makeover by Phuli Cohan
TYPES OF OMEGA-3 FATTY ACIDS FOUND IN NATURE The principal Omega-3 essential fatty acids (EFA’s) are eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid ( DHA), primarily found in certain fish. α-Linolenic acid (ALA), another Omega-3 fatty acid, is found in plants such as nuts and seeds. Wikipedia’s entry for Omega-3 fatty acid lists these as the most common Omega-3 fatty acids found in nature (Wikipedia, 8/28/2014): Hexadecatrienoic acid (HTA) α-Linolenic acid (ALA) Stearidonic acid (SDA) Eicosatrienoic acid (ETE) Eicosatetraenoic acid (ETA) Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) Heneicosapentaenoic acid (HPA) Docosapentaenoic acid (DPA), Clupanodonic acid Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) Tetracosapentaenoic acid Tetracosahexaenoic acid (Nisinic acid)
FOODS NATURALLY HIGH IN OMEGA-3 ESSENTIAL FATTY ACIDS
Foods high in Omega-3s are naturally delicious to the palate. Foods Rich in Omega-3s: SEAFOOD: