When something harmful affects parts of our body, we try to remove it and the body is trying to heal itself. Inflammation is the body’s immune response. Sometimes inflammation can cause further inflammation and certain food can increase that process, or increase the sense of pain and risk of chronic diseases. When a infection is detected, our body starts certain anti-inflammatory processes. Omega-6 fatty acids triggers this reaction and increase the further inflammation. This type of fat is found in certain grains, seeds and vegetable oils. After this reaction happens, an inflammatory process needs to be reduced, so that the body can heal and recover. Omega-3 fatty acids starts the process of reducing the inflammation. The best source of it is fish oil and flaxseeds. Omega-3 fats is also found in other seeds, nuts, dark leafy vegetables and animal products. The ratio of Omega-6 and Omega-3 fatty acids in our body should be 1:1 or 2:1. Today, estimates of the ratio range is from 10:1 to 20:1, even 25:1 in some individuals. But why is this happening? Researches suggests that our hunter-gatherer ancestors consumed fatty acids in a perfect ratio. The meat that they consumed contained more Omega-3 because the animals ate more grass than they do now. Today, the consumption of Omega-6 fats has escalated due to increased use of cereal grains as food for domestic livestock, which altered the profile of mean that humans consumed. The arrival of the modern vegetable oil industry has also contributed to that disrupted ratio. Diseases that are related to modern inflammation are cancer, diabetes, heart disease, obesity, metabolic syndrome, irritable bowel syndrome, problems with hormones, rheumatoid arthritis, asthma, psychiatric and autoimmune disorders, allergies and many skin problems. A diet with a lot of Omega-6 will increase inflammation, while a diet with Omega-3 will reduce inflammation. However, this doesn’t implies that we don’t need Omega-6 at all. We certainly need them, but not as much as we consume.
Types of Omega-3
There are 3 types of Omega-3. The strongest health benefits have DHA and EPA, which is found in certain types of fish. The third form is ALA which is found primarily in flaxseed, and also in other vegetable oils, seeds, walnuts and dark leafy vegetable. ALA is converted into DHA and EPA in our body, but our body can convert only a small amount of ALA into DHA and EPA. Fish oil supplements are also a good option, but you should consult your doctor first. It’s better to have a balanced diet than taking supplements, unless you really have problems with inflammation. Some fish are likely to have higher levels of mercury, PCBs or other toxins, so you need to consider that first. These include farm-raised fish, mackerel, swordfish, tile fish and shark. The following charts will show the ratio of fatty acids in certain types of fish and nuts, as well as the percentage of some oils commonly used among people.
It’s important to pay attention to the content of Omega-3 and Omega-6 when buying oil or consuming nuts, seeds or fish. When considering reducing inflammation, you should look at the ratio first. If you already get your Omega-6 from animal product, lower them by choosing snacks or oils that doesn’t contain them as much. However, some food can have other great nutrients even if the content of Omega-6 is high, so it’s important not to cut them at all.