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Omega-3 vs. Omega-6 fatty acids: Achieving Optimal Health

Here’s an interesting question that will make you think about what supplement is most important to your overall health. If you could only take one vitamin or supplement for the rest of your life, what would it be? Maybe you would choose Vitamin D3, or Vitamin C, or Probiotics, maybe your green drink? Me, I’d choose Omega-3 (fish oil). I'd also spend more time in the sun getting Vitamin D and eat a lot more sauerkraut and fermented foods to get proper amounts of probiotics.

Omega-3 fatty acids, eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) are what are known as essential fats. The human body can make most of the types of fats it needs from other fats or raw materials. However, that isn’t the case for omega-3 fatty acids, the body can’t make them from scratch but must get them from food.

Most Americans get far more of another essential fat, Linoleic Acid than they do omega-3 fats. Linoleic acid is an essential omega-6 fatty acid and when overconsumed is a precursor to oxidized products known as "OXLAMS" (oxidized linoleic acid metabolites). Oxlams are dangerous and are known to increase, or what we call “upregulate”, pain and inflammation, as well as damage the brain. Experts have raised the hypothesis that this higher intake of omega-6 fats could be detrimental due to its ability to cause inflammation and cardiovascular disease. Over the course of the 20th century, there has been a 20-fold increase in the consumption of linoleic acids from vegetable oils (corn, soybean, sunflower, canola) resulting from both their increased availability and from recommendations to consume these oils as an aid to lowering cholesterol. Remember when everyone was using margarine because it was “heart-healthy” and reduced cholesterol? A lot of Americans fell for that marketing campaign years ago.

Omega-6 fatty acids from vegetable oils should be very limited in your diet. Remember, you will get them easily in your diet because they are in a lot of foods we consume. However, we must actively search out and consume omega-3 fats because we don’t regularly consume foods they are in. Omega-3’s have numerous benefits including reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease, reducing the risk of sudden cardiac death, reducing blood clots, keeping the lining of the arteries smooth preventing hardening of the arteries, lowering triglycerides, reducing inflammation by lowering substances that are released during the inflammatory response (cytokines), improving brain health, improving joint health, and finally some research shows that they may reduce blood pressure due to the benefits mentioned above.

So, in summary, avoid foods high in linoleic acid (omega-6) such as vegetable oils and consume a diet high in eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) which are omega-3 fats. I take 2 grams of EPA/DHA and recommend at least 1 gram (1,000 mg) of pure, distilled fish oil. Remember, fat and oils can contain toxins such as aluminum and mercury and these must be distilled out. DON’T buy cheap fish oil because they don't do this. Higher dosages should be taken for cardioprotection, reducing triglycerides, and/or reducing the stiffness that comes from arthritis. I like to call omega-3’s the “WD-40” of the human body.

Maybe, grandma and grandpa knew what they were doing when they ate their tin of sardines frequently, they had the key to health.

Best in health,

Dr. Dane

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