Omega-3 and Omega-6: Striking the Right Balance

Do you remember when you were young and your parents forced you to take fish oil by the teaspoon, saying that it was good for you? Guess what?

They were right! Omega-3 and Omega-6 are called essential fatty acids (EFAs) and are poly-unsaturated fats. Since your body cannot manufacture EFAs, they need to be obtained from the food you eat or the supplements you take. Linoleic Acid (LA) is a primary member of the Omega-6 fatty acids and can be found in leafy vegetables, seeds, nuts, grains, and vegetable oils like corn oil, soybean oil and sunflower oil. Vegetarian diets tend to be very high in Omega-6.

Omega-3 fatty acids have three main types. The first two, EPA (eicosapen- taenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexanoic acid), are both found in cold water fish. Fresh seaweed is the only plant food that contains a significant amount of EPA and DHA. The third type of Omega-3, called ALA (alpha- linolenic acid), is found in oils (like flaxseed), although small amounts can also be found in some nuts and seeds. In order for your body to benefit from DHA and EPA, your body must be able to convert the ALA to DHA and EPA. Your body may not always be able to make that conversion if your organs are not working as efficiently as they should, therefore, the only way to truly ensure your body gets the powerhouse benefits of DHA and EPA is to take it directly in the form of fish oil.

Most North Americans currently consume between 20 and 50 times more Omega-6 than Omega-3, although for optimal health, the ratio should be about 3:1. As you can see from this ratio, most people don’t need to supplement with Omega-6; since they already get enough from their diet.

Science is now pointing to the fact that a major cause of the current high incidence of heart disease, hypertension, diabetes, obesity and some forms of cancer is the imbalance between Omega-6 and Omega-3. Many ailments or diseases can be traced back to a deficiency in Omega- 3 fatty acids, they have been shown to support a healthy cholesterol level along with musculoskeletal, cardiovascular, endocrine and immune system functions. Research shows that imbalances between Omega-6 and Omega-3 fatty acids can increase inflammation, coagulation and the growth of adipose and cancer cells.

Fish oil has also been shown to play a crucial role in weight loss. Fish oils turn on your lipolytic (fat burning) genes, turns off the lipogenic (fat storage) genes and increases the use of fat stores from your adiposities (fat cells).

Other Benefits of Fish Oil Include:

• Promotion of good heart health • Decrease in triglycerides and high blood pressure • Enhancement of circulation • Decrease in depression • Reduction of symptoms of Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder • Better memory, learning and help with Alzheimer’s Disease • Reduction of allergies • Clearer skin • Reduction of inflammation from arthritis • Regulation of insulin • Improvement of immune system health • Better women’s reproductive health • Enhancement of vision • Reduction of inflammatory bowel disease

As mentioned earlier, the most efficient way to ensure that you get DHA and EPA is to take it directly in the form of fish oil. While I usually promote the value of getting your nutrients directly from the source, cold-water fish, unfortunately, often contains metals that are harmful to humans, such as mercury. Therefore getting your Omega-3 from fish oil supplements might be a healthier option, especially if you don’t know the origin of the fish you’re buying. Adding Omega-3 to your diet is important. If you opt for a fish oil supplement be very careful of the source.

Look for fish oil that:

 • Is pharmaceutical-grade • Is third party certified for purity and quality • Has an antioxidant blend for freshness and stability • Is free from pesticides and heavy metals such as mercury, PCBs and dioxins • Is custom-made in small batch production

The antioxidant in fish oil is important because it is perishable. The antioxidants are needed so that the fish oil does not oxidize in your body, causing free radicals that are hazardous to your health. High-quality fish oil supplements are stabilized with adequate amounts of antioxidants. To help protect the fat in the oil from oxidation, 400 units of vitamin E is commonly used. For more information about fish oil and Omega-3 and Omega-6, check out Dr. Nathalie’s book Wellness On The Go at www.drnathaliebeauchamp.com.

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