Nowadays many people are aware of the health benefits of omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids. However, not as many are aware of the importance of having a healthy balance of these omegas in the body; nor aware of the health risks that may occur as a result of an omega 3-6 ratio imbalance. Scientific research reveals the different types of health problems that arise due to an imbalance and or deficiency in essential fatty acids.
There are three forms omega 3 fatty acid. DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) and EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) are forms that are found chiefly in cold-water fatty fish such as mackerel, salmon, herring, lake trout, albacore tuna, and sardines. ALA (alpha-linolenic acid) is found in vegetable sources such as flax seed oil, canola oil, soybean oil, also in walnuts.
The essential fatty acid omega 6 also has various forms. GLA (gamma-linolenic acid) is found in plant-based oils. The sources of LA (linoleic acid) include corn oil, safflower oil, soybean oil, sunflower oil, and cotton seed oil. ARA (arachidonic acid) is found in animal based oils (saturated fats). Omega 6 fatty acids are beneficial for the treatment of ADHD, diabetes, osteoporosis, ailments as anorexia nervosa, and rheumatoid arthritis just to name a few.
Our bodies can also convert ALA and LA into longer chain fatty acids, which lead to the manufacturing of eicosanoids. Eicosanoids can have a positive or negative impact on our body, depending on their levels of concentration. Positively, they may deter intravascular clotting which aids in preventing strokes and heart attacks. By dilating blood vessels, they can help lower hypertension and promote circulation.
Unfortunately, problems start to happen when an omega 3-6 ratio imbalance occurs. The eicosanoids produced by an overabundance of omega 6 tends to generate many negative side effects. This includes an increase in blood clotting which causes heart attack and strokes. It can also increase cellular growth, advancing the development of cancer cells. A surplus of omega 6 also suppresses the immune system, increasing the possibility of infection.
The goal we need to strive for in our diet is to strengthen our intake of omega 3 and decrease the amount of omega 6 for proper essential fatty acid balance. By eating more fatty fish and taking omega 3 fish oil dietary supplements, we can achieve this goal. We should be careful to avoid foods fried in oils to help decrease our intake of omega 6. By maintaining a proper balance of the omega 3-6 ratio, we can be assured of good heart health and good overall health.