Omega 6 vs Omega 3
By Yolandi Rademeyer R.D
Omega-6 and omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) are essential fatty acids that must be derived from the diet and cannot be made by humans or other mammals.
Due to modern agricultural changes, the intake of omega-6 fatty acid has increased and the omega-3 fatty acid decreased, resulting in a large increase in the omega-6/omega-3 ratio from 1:1 (during evolution/ paleolithic times) to 20:1 today or even higher.
This shift in ratio parallels a significant increase in inflammation and the prevalence of overweight and obesity as well as inflammatory diseases / condition states such as:
• Alzheimer’s disease
• Chronic obstructive lung diseases
(emphysema and bronchitis)
• Chronic pain
• Type 2 diabetes
• Heart disease
• Inflammatory bowel disease (Crohn’s or ulcerative colitis)
• Diseases where the immune system attacks the body, such as rheumatoid arthritis, lupus,or scleroderma
•PCOS, endometriosis, subfertility etc
Prospective studies clearly show an increase in the risk of obesity as the level of omega-6 fatty acids and the omega-6/omega-3 ratio increase ,whereas high omega-3 decrease the risk of obesity.
Omega 3 and Omega 6 must be consumed from food as there is no way for the body to produce either of them and they are not interchangeable (Omega 6 can not be converted to Omega 3 or vise versa)
(Having a look at the diagram)
- LA is plentiful in nature and is found in the seeds of most plants except for coconut, cocoa, and palm
- ALA, on the other hand, is found in the chloroplasts of green leafy vegetables, and in the seeds of flax, rape, chia, perilla and walnuts.
- AA is found predominantly in the phospholipids of grain-fed animals, dairy and eggs.
- EPA and DHA are best sourced from fatty , wild caught fish as ALA has a very slow conversion to EPA and DHA
In paleothic times , almost all animal products were a great source of Omega 3, however, as agriculture has changed, so has the Omega 3 content of animal products;
- Changing animal feeds to grain (as a result of its emphasis on production) has decreased the omega-3 fatty acid content in many foods: animal meats, eggs, and even fish [1, 2, 3, 4].
- Foods from edible wild plants contain a good balance of omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids. Purslane, a wild plant, in comparison to spinach, red leaf lettuce, butter crunch lettuce and mustard greens, has eight times more ALA than the cultivated plants .
- Modern aquaculture produces fish that contain less omega-3 fatty acids than do fish wild caught fish in the ocean, rivers and lakes .
- The fatty acid composition of egg yolk from free-ranging chicken has an omega-6:omega-3 ratio of 1;3 whereas the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) egg has a ratio of 19;9 .
- By enriching the chicken feed with fishmeal or flaxseed, the ratio of omega-6:omega-3 decreased to 6;6 and 1;6 respectively.
How to incorporate more Omega 3 and less Omega 6?
for more information on fish intake please read this blog
For more examples on trans fats click here
Other foods that counteract chronic inflammation:
- Leafy green vegetables
- Foods high in antioxidants
• Yellow, orange, and red vegetables (peppers, carrots)
• Dark leafy greens (spinach, Romaine lettuce)
• Citrus fruits
• Black and green teas
• Allium vegetables (onions, garlic)
- Foods high in fiber (aim for 30g/day)
- Spices that contain anti-inflammatory compounds
- Herbs that have anti-inflammatory properties
• Willow bark
Other foods that contribute to inflammation:
- Foods high in simple carbohydrates (That is, foods with a high glycemic load. Foods
that cause rapid rises and drops in insulin levels seem to cause more inflammation.)
• White breads or bagels
• English muffins
• Instant rice
• Rice and corn cereals
- Foods more likely to trigger intolerance reactions (these vary from person to person)
• Artificial flavors and colours (Aspartame, FD&C dyes)