Essential omega fatty acids are a crucial part of every human’s health. Omega 3’s and 6’s are polyunsaturated fats. Many experts/research reveals the importance of controlling a healthy ratio to prevent many chronic diseases that are rooted in inflammation and cell dysfunction. As an athlete, I take inflammation very seriously because I want to be able to stay healthy through long training blocks of running. High amounts of chronic inflammation are usually what causes injury and poor recovery. Today, most people consuming a western diet have a ratio of about 20:1 omega 6 to omega 3. Personally, I believe that consuming these from whole food sources is the best because many supplements have rancid oils that are simply not providing the benefit anticipated.
Omega 3 Breakdown
The three primary forms of omega 3 fatty acids are as follows
ALA: Alpha-linolenic acid plays a crucial role in controlling inflammation which is also linked to chronic diseases like alzheimers.
DHA: Docosahexaenoic acid makes up about 8% of our brain weight and is crucial for optimal brain function. DHA is the more bioavailable source of omega 3’s than ALA. It is found mostly in fatty fish. The issue with the sources of EPA and DHA in both seaweed and fish oil supplement forms is the cyanotoxins and oxidization. I personally believe it is best to consume these DHA from whole food fish sources.
EPA: Eicosapentaenoic acid plays a crucial role in cell function and nerve function.
Omega 6 Breakdown
Most omega 6 fatty acids are used for the energy to fuel the body. The problem in western countries today is the vast amount of O6 fatty acids in the diet. When 600-800 of the average American calories come from vegetable oils, it becomes easy to connect the dots with the reason why the ratio today is about 30:1 omega 6 to omega 3 for most Americans.
CLA: Conjugated linoleic acid is the main source of omega 6 fatty acids in the diet. Factory farmed animal products have a high source of CLA and a low source of omega 3’s. Research has shown that grass-fed beef has about a 5x higher amount of omega 3 than grain-fed beef
ARA: Arachidonic acid is found in many animal products like eggs and chicken fat. It plays a crucial role in muscle/tissue recovery.
Summary: There is no question that the amount of omega 6 fatty acids present in most people’s diet is higher than it should be and are more dangerous to their health because of their pro-inflammatory properties. However, I believe this is due to a large amount of fried and processed food in the diet, not from eating a ton of nuts and seeds. Personally, I believe the best way to improve health from the foundation is to add in nutrient-dense whole foods before taking away big foods groups. Limiting vegetable oils have helped me a lot in recovery, weight management, and overall health. I have added fatty fish to my diet and have seen my brain health, recovery, and weight improve.