Rapid dietary changes over short period of time that have occurred over the past 100-150 years are a totally new phenomenon in the history of human evolution. This is especially true in regard to the intake of omega-6 and omega-3 essential fatty acids and antioxidants from vegetarian sources. Ready meals and processed food have turned our calorie consumption towards vegetable oils, meat, sugar and starch, and away from complex carbohydrates and fibre and fresh vegetables . These unhealthy trends have been exacerbated by a 50 % decrease in physical activity. In brief, our diet during the last 100-150 years has turned from balanced and anti-inflammatory to unbalanced and pro-inflammatory.
Such dietary changes and reduction in physical activity have had a profound impact on our health. Fatty acids carry out many functions that are necessary for normal physiological health. In addition to being mere storehouse of energy they are critical for cell membrane structure and function and for local“ hormonal” signalling. Imbalances in fatty acid level are known to affect the clinical course of several life-style related disorders Compared to the diet on which humans evolved, todays western diets are generally deficient in omega-3. The alternative to the marine essential omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA that the body need as building blocks, is the 3 / 10 vegetarian omega-3 fatty acid alpha-linolenic acid (ALA). However, vegetable ALA is not sufficiently converted to EPA and DHA in the body to be able to act as a substitute to the marine omega-3 sources. Hence, they must be supplied by direct intake of EPA and DHA from marine sources. An ALA rich vegetarian diet is generally providing less than 4 % Omega-3 (EPA+DHA) level in the fatty acids profile in whole blood. The key message is that a balanced omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids ratio is an essential part of a balanced diet aimed to promote good health.
What are Omega 3 oils and why do we need them? Omega 3 fatty acids are important for almost everybody from conception to grave. Omega 3s, specifically DHA and EPA, are the building blocks of healthy cells and a healthy metabolism. Omega 3s have been found to stabilise the electrical activity of our cell membranes making them less excitable helping the brain and the heart and airways to be healthier, and, importantly, Omega 3s have been found to reduce chronic low-grade inflammation in the body. The balance of Omega 6:3 should be around 3:1, but in the UK the average is around 15:1. . People who eat really well and already take Omega 3 supplements usually average at around 7/8:1. I can substantiate this as I have taken Omega 3 supplements for years and my ratio came back at 8:1 still way out of balance. Taking an Omega 3 supplement is beneficial for most people. But why like me was I still not in balance if we are already eating well and taking an Omega 3 supplement? Well, the problem is oxidative stress caused in part, again, by our diet.
As well as containing way too much Omega 6, our modern diet also contains a lot of Advanced Glycation End (AGE) products, or glycotoxins, that are caused by sugars reacting with proteins. These glycotoxins contribute to an increase in oxidative stress and inflammation and are linked to cellular ageing and damage and diseases including diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Animal food products that are high in fat and protein are AGE rich. Vegetables, fruits, wholegrains and milk contain fewer AGEs, even after cooking. So as well as including lots of omega-3 rich foods in your diet, you also have to make sure you’re not eating too many omega-6 fats. While omega-3s reduce inflammation in your body, omega-6s promote it. Omega-6s are still essential for your health — for example, inflammation helps your body fight infections. But too much inflammation can put you at risk of things like heart disease, cancer, arthritis, and diabetes. .
To lower the amount of omega-6 fats in your diet avoid processed vegetable oils. These include vegetable oil, corn oil, safflower oil, soybean oil, and cottonseed oil. You should also avoid processed foods that contain these.
Eating high amounts of omega-3s is also linked to a whole range of other health benefits. This is mainly because they can help reduce long-term, low levels of inflammation (chronic inflammation). Heart health The anti-inflammatory benefits of omega-3s can prevent your blood vessels from getting damaged. They can also lower your blood lipids (triglycerides), blood pressure and risk of blood clotting. This can reduce your risk of things like heart attack, stroke and sudden cardiac death. Arthritis Omega-3 fats might help ease arthritis symptoms by reducing the inflammation and pain in your joints. They're also linked to improved bone and joint health, which might help protect you against arthritis and osteoporosis. Cancer A diet high in omega-3s is linked to a lower risk of some cancers, particularly colon cancer. Mental health A diet high in omega-3s, particularly EPA, might help treat or protect you against depression and anxiety Sleep A diet high in omega-3s, particularly DHA, might help you have longer, better quality sleep. This is probably because omega-3s are linked to the sleep hormone, melatonin, which helps you fall asleep. Obesity A diet high in omega-3 fats might increase your metabolism and aid weight loss. Omega-3s might also improve gut health which is thought to offer some protection against obesity.
Getting omega-3s from your diet Oily fish, like salmon, trout, mackerel, tuna, and sardines, is one of the best sources of omega-3s. It’s recommended that you aim to eat two portions a week. Although not as rich in omega-3s, other animal sources include grass-fed meat and omega-3 enriched eggs.
There are some plant sources of omega-3, like flaxseeds, chia seeds, walnuts, and hemp seeds. But your body finds it harder to use this type of omega-3 (ALA). If you’re vegan, vegetarian or don’t eat a lot of fish you might need to think about taking a supplement. Getting omega-3s from supplements There are a surplus of Omegas to choose from but some are better than others. You should also make sure the supplements contain both EPA and DHA and see how much EPA and DHA are actually in it — natural fish oils usually contain about 30% EPA and DHA which is enough for most people. Another thing to look out for is the form of omega-3 in the supplement. Your body finds it easier to absorb omega-3s in the form of free fatty acids, although this is mostly found in foods. So which Omega 3 oil do I take and why? Well I take and recommend a supplement called Balance Oil. Balance Oil contains polyphenols from cold-pressed olives as well as Omega 3 oils, and it’s the polyphenols that makes Balance Oil so special. Polyphenols are super anti-oxidants, so this product hits destructive inflammation in a two-pronged attack. And, not only do polyphenols help to protect us from inflammation and cell damage from oxidative stress, they also help cells absorb nutrients, so we can get the most benefit from the healthy foods and supplements that we digest. Balance Oil is also very special because it comes in a vegan option too, which is made from sea algae. Balance Oil doesn’t taste bad at all and it comes in a range of natural flavours. The recommended dose is 0.15ml/kg each day and it is suitable for children and adults. It also comes in a water-soluble form and a tablet for those who prefer it, and it also contains immune system boosting vitamin D3.
Test your omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acidsWe can check the level of omega-3 and omega-6 fats in your body with a simple finger-prick blood test. This will tell you your omega-6 to omega-3 ratio. From this, you can get an idea of the level of inflammation in your body If you are interested in learning more please get in touch