Both omega-3 and omega-6 are essential fatty acids that your body cannot make. You must obtain omega-3 and omega-6 through your diet, and both are necessary for the body. Once you consume these omegas, they are processed by the body in the same way, and eating an overabundance of one can interfere with your body’s ability to absorb the other. Our modern American diets are unevenly heavy on omega-6, and this is causing problems with the available levels of omega-3 in our bodies. Let’s explore what each of these omegas does, and what problems can arise from an imbalance in the body.
Omega-3 is great for your body. Omega-3s form an integral part of cell membranes, and affect cell function throughout the body. This can include making hormones that control blood clotting, contraction and relaxation of artery walls, inflammation, and bind to receptors that regulate genetic function. Because of this, omega-3 has been shown to:
- Prevent Heart Disease and Stroke: Omega-3s can lower triglyceride levels and decrease your risk of heart disease.
- Alzheimer’s: Omega-3 may protect against dementia, Alzheimer’s, and memory loss.
- Help Rheumatoid Arthritis: Stiffness and joint pain have been eased with omega-3s.
- Protect Against Cancer and Other Diseases
- Essential For Pregnancy: Omega-3 is important for neurological infant development.
- Reduces Symptoms of Diabetes: With so many Americans struggling with diabetes, anything that can help is essential.
- Helps With Depression, Anxiety, and Bipolar Disorder: More research needs to be done, but ADHD also seems to be improved with omega 3s.
Great sources of omega 3s include wild salmon, sardines, anchovies, herring, mackerel, trout, tuna, grass-fed beef, walnuts, flaxseeds, brussels sprouts, cauliflower, and algae and krill oils. The connections between omega-3s and health were first demonstrated in the 1970s in Greenland when scientists observed that the Inuit population had reduced rates of heart disease, rheumatoid arthritis, and other inflammatory diseases. This flew in the face of current recommendations to lower fat and cholesterol; the Inuit diet was was very high in both fat and cholesterol. This led researchers to study the components of staples of their diet, which was mostly marine-based—and found that omega-3s were abundant. For heart, brain, nervous system, and overall health, omega-3 is incredibly important.
Omega-6 is a polyunsaturated fatty acid that keeps the brain healthy, stimulates skin and hair growth, maintains good bone health, regulates the metabolism, and helps keep the reproductive system healthy. As mentioned above, omega-6 cannot be produced by the body, and is primarily found in vegetable oils in the American diet. Omega-6 can also be found in beef, chicken, eggs and nuts. Because of the prevalence of vegetable oils in the typical American diet, most Americans consume far more omega-6s than ever before. Think of the American favorites: pizza, chips, salad dressings, processed meats, and more. Most of these foods are heavy on the omega-6 fatty acids in the form of vegetable oils. The highest omega-6 containing foods are safflower oil, grapeseed oil, sunflower oil, poppyseed oil, corn oil, walnut oil, cottonseed oil, soybean oil, and sesame oil. Omega-6 help the body in many ways, including:
- Reduces Nerve Pain: Especially helpful in cases of diabetic neuropathy.
- Fights Inflammation: GLA (a type of omega-6 fatty acid) has been shown to fight inflammation which has been shown to lead to chronic diseases such as Alzheimer’s, cancer, diabetes, heart disease and arthritis.
- Treats Rheumatoid Arthritis: Omega-6 is thought to reduce pain, swelling, and stiffness.
- Reduces High Blood Pressure: GLA may help with lowering blood pressure.
- Lowers Risk of Disease: The American Heart Association suggests that omega-6 may decrease the risk of coronary heart disease.
- Supports Bone Health: Omega-6 works to keep bones healthy.
As with omega-3, you can see that there are a whole host of benefits that omega-6 brings to the body.
Too Much of a Good Thing
So, just take as much omega-3 and omega-6 as possible for maximum health, right? Unfortunately, this couldn’t be further from the truth, and an imbalance of these two fatty acids can do more harm than good. Because our diets have changed dramatically, the ratio between our omega-3s and omega-6s has changed as well, and not for the better. There is evidence that suggests that this change has a large role in the prevalence of modern diseases. There is anthropological evidence that the ratio between omega 3s and omega 6s in the diet used to be close to 1:1, and that our ancestors suffered far less, if none of, the modern inflammatory diseases. Consumption of omega 6 now greatly outweighs omega 3, and the ratio has risen from around 8:1 in the 1930s to an estimated 10:1 to 25:1 today! Consider that Americans get roughly 20 percent of their calories from soybean oil, and 9 percent of all calories from omega-6 alone. So the ratio between these two fatty acids is way different than it used to be, what does that matter?
Remember what we said earlier about omega-6 and omega-3 being processed the same way in the body? This means that the more omega-6 you consume, the less omega-3 is processed by the body and available for use. The opposite is true as well, but because our diets are so laden with omega-6, the omega-3 shortage is what Americans need to focus on. It turns out that there are good benefits to be had from omega-6s, but a disproportionate amount of omega-6 in the diet leads to inflammation. This inflammation is kept in check by the anti-inflammatory properties of omega-3, but you can see why our modern diet causes problems due to the lack of balance between these two fatty acids. The body needs just enough omega-6 for optimal performance, and that needs to be balanced with a lot of omega-3s. As stated earlier, our Western diet throws this balance way off, with up to 25 times more omega-6 than omega-3. The most common source of all of this omega-6 is all of the oils in our foods that are cheap to produce: candy, cookies, crackers, creamer, and margarine to name a few. Plus, many of these oils come from GMO-laden sources, further increasing the risk that they will negatively impact your health.
So, if we know that omega-6 is bad in excess, what are we to do? Our modern diets need to be revamped with less processed foods to restore the correct balance of omegas in our bodies. Eating fresh, whole foods, and meats that have not been raised on omega-6 heavy diets, can help pave the way toward better, more vibrant health. Living Spheres loves to help our customers understand how to get healthy, and our NanoVite Life is a great supplement for detox to help you on your healing path. Our proprietary liposomal formula can help to protect cells and provide antioxidant support to the whole body as you seek to bring more balance to your diet.