Omega-3/Omega-6 Fatty Acid Ratio
Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids are a form of unsaturated fats that we desperately need in our diet. Omega 3 fatty acids are high in alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA). Omega-3 keeps cell membranes (that form a barrier around cells) more fluid, which helps with brain, hormone, muscular, cardiovascular and nervous system function, as well as immune health.
Many people think that Omega-3’s and Omega-6’s do similar things, which is both true and false. Both of them affect the production of signalling molecules called eicosanoids, but they promote signalling molecules that do different things. Omega-3 fats are considered anti-inflammatory and promote eicosanoids that :
Open up blood vessels to improve blood circulation
Prevent blood clumping
Open up our airways
Support our immune system
Omega-6 fats are considered pro-inflammatory, which help with things like
Constricting blood vessels
Cause blood clotting
Constrict our airways
The jobs omega-6 fats do are necessary in the aid of healing injuries and muscles from exercise.
History of Omega Intake
Historically, human beings ate foods that are high in Omega-3 and Omega-6. Humans ate foods such as:
This diet gave people all the nutrients they need, as well as a well balanced omega-3/omega-6 ratio. Historically, the ratio of our ancestors would range from 2:1 - 8:1 in favor of omega-6. The typical “western diet'' is said to have a 10:1 - 50:1 ratio in favor of omega-6, which can lead to chronic issues like cardiovascular disease. It is said that a healthy omega-6/omega-3 ratio is about 4:1 in favor of omega-6.
Improving your Omega Ratio
The best way to have a better omega-6/omega-3 ratio is to eat less processed foods and fats. Substitute these foods with a wide variety of plants and animal foods, including fatty fish in that diet. If you do this and still aren’t getting enough omega-3, then talk to a healthcare professional about supplementing omega-3!
Berardi, J. M. (2012). Precision nutrition. Toronto: Precision Nutrition.