Omega-3 fats are termed essential for humans. It means that our body needs them to function and cannot make them on its own. The other essential fat for humans is the Omega-6 fats. But why do we always hear about Omega-3’s and not so much about Omega-6’s?
All of us are deficient in Omega-3’s (and not Omega-6’s)
There is an ideal ratio of Omega-6 to Omega-3 fats in the body. Researchers suggest that a good ratio for optimal health is 2:1. That is, twice as many Omega-6’s in our tissues as Omega-3’s. But most Americans consume way too many Omega-6 fats compared to Omega-3 fats. The result? Our body’s ratio of Omega-6 to Omega-3 fats is out of balance. For most Americans this ratio ranges from 10:1 to 30:1, Omega-6 to Omega-3.
What happens when your body has too many Omega-6 fats and not enough Omega-3 fats?
Among other things, the Omega-6 and Omega-3 fats are used as building blocks for hormones. The Omega-6 fats fuel the production of pro-inflammatory hormones (hormones that initiate inflammation in the body). The Omega-3 fats fuel the production of opposing hormones, that is hormones that are anti-inflammatory.
When we consume too many Omega-6 fats and not enough Omega-3 fats, our body manufactures an excess of pro-inflammatory hormones and not enough anti-inflammatory hormones. The result is that our body produces too much inflammation and doesn’t have the means to control it.
Imagine inflammation as a fire. Whenever a tissue is injured whether by infection or mechanical injury, fire (inflammation) breaks out. In reality inflammation is a functional process in the body. It is a process of self-repair. When there is an infection the inflammation isolates the area, allowing the immune system to move in and clean up and destroy the infecting microbes. When there is physical injury (a muscle strain or joint arthritis) the inflammatory process allows the immune system to move in and clean up the damaged tissue. Then other cells rebuild and replace the damaged tissues.
In both cases (infection and injury) once the problem is solved, the body puts out the fire of inflammation, which has served its purpose. When out of balance with insufficient Omega-3 fats, the body doesn’t have enough water to put out the fire of inflammation. This analogy is accurate in describing why we as a population are suffering from so many of the ill effects of inflammation. Our body’s don’t have enough water to put out the fires of inflammation.
Reduced risk of heart attacks and cardiovascular disease. Researchers have shown this over and over again. In one study in Italy, survivors of a heart attack were given 1 gram (1000 mg) of fish oil daily for 3 1/2 years. Those taking the fish oil had a 30% reduced risk of dying of cardiovascular disease and a 45% reduced risk of having a sudden fatal heart attack.