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Why is an omega-3: omega-6 fatty acid imbalance so dangerous?


With high importance of PUFAs, the human body cannot independently produce them. Deficiency of any fatty acids leads to serious diseases. Their importance is not only in the production and storage of energy, but also in the biologically active participation in the life of the body (blood coagulation, inflammatory reactions). Omega-6 has a pro-inflammatory effect, and Omega-3 has an anti-inflammatory effect.

Proinflammation is a latent, nonspecific process at the cellular level, affecting cell membranes. At the first stage, external manifestations are absent, the immune response is not excited. Progression of proinflammation leads to oncological or degenerative degeneration of cells. With a lack of Omega-3, the cell membrane is built with the involvement of Omega-6 - a receptive and lower-quality fatty acid.

Inflammatory reactions protect the body from infections and injuries, but their excess leads to serious damage and the development of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, metabolic symptom, Alzheimer's disease and oncology.

Excess Omega-6 with a deficiency of Omega-3 will provoke inflammatory reactions, and a balanced diet reduces their number.

Healthy eating culture

eat processed food. Ideal options are hunter-gatherers. Their ratio of Omega-6 to Omega-3 ranges from 4: 1 to 1: 4:

  • when eating land animals - 2: 1 - 4: 1,
  • the basis of the diet was seafood - 1: 4.

The average ratio of Omega-6 to Omega-3 is 1: 1. All representatives of the populations did not suffer from diseases that kill millions of people in Western countries.

It should be noted that not one group consumed a lot of Omega-6, and then compensated for it with a certain amount of Omega-3. In the diet of people there was a small but balanced content of fatty acids.

Anthropologists note that during the evolution, the ratio of omega-3 fatty acids in food was 1: 1. In modern man, the value is close to 16: 1, which requires genetic adaptations from the body.

Western diet problems

In recent decades, the inhabitants of Western countries have decreased the intake of Omega-3, but increased Omega-6. Even 100 years ago, a person did not possess modern technologies for processing vegetable oils. The fast technological process did not allow a person to adapt at the genetic level to a changed diet. At the beginning of the last century, Americans did not know about soybean oil at all. Today it is the main source of Omega-6 for a US resident who consumes more than 11 kg per year.

In fat stores and cell membranes over 50 years, the amount of Omega-6 has increased by 200%. Doctors noted this as the main catalyst for cardiovascular diseases, depressive and aggressive conditions. Double bonds of molecules react with oxygen, provoking chain reactions of free radicals that damage cells and cause oncology.

Sources of Omega 3

Animal products are rich in omega-3s. The problem of modern animal husbandry is artificial feeding using soy and corn. These foods lower the concentration of omega-3s in meat, increasing omega-6s. It is better to eat meat of animals grown on herbs. The situation is similar with chicken and eggs.

The best option would be a two-week weekly seafood intake. The presence in the diet of even salmon grown is better than its absence. However, it is worth remembering the level of pollution of the waters where the fish lived.

There are plant sources of Omega-3: chia, flax. They contain one of the ineffective forms of omega-3 ALA fatty acids, the conversion of which takes place in the body with great losses.

Decreasing the concentration of omega-6 in adipose tissue will take several years. To speed up the process and restore the normal ratio of Omega-6 to Omega-3, you must adhere to the following rules:

  • Avoid vegetable oils and products with an increased concentration of Omega-6 as much as possible.
  • Eat animal foods rich in omega-3s.
  • Introduce an additional source of Omega-3 as a dietary supplement.

Why is it so important to strike a balance between omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids?

Omega-6 and omega-3 are polyunsaturated fatty acids, that is, molecules having many double bonds.

In the human body, these compounds are not just a source of energy, but also perform many other functions. Therefore, life without them is impossible. At the same time, we cannot synthesize omega 3 and 6 fatty acids on our own. Therefore, they should receive them with food.

Inflammation is important for survival, as it protects against infections and damage. But at the same time, it can cause serious harm and lead to the development of many serious diseases.

Scientists attribute chronic inflammation to the development of pathologies such as metabolic syndrome and obesity, diabetes, arthritis, Alzheimer's disease, heart and vascular diseases, and cancer.

Moreover, compounds are formed from omega-6, which significantly reduce the energy expenditure of the body. And this leads to their gaining excess weight, up to obesity. From omega-3 such substances are not formed.

Why is this happening?

The fact is that with the metabolism of both omega-6 and omega-3 molecules, the body uses the same enzymes. As a result of the chain of transformations from omega-6, substances are formed that enhance inflammation, for example, prostaglandin PG2, and from omega-3, compounds that reduce inflammation, such as prostaglandin PG-1, are formed.

That is, omega-6 and omega-3 acids compete for the attention of the same enzymes, the number of which is not infinite. Therefore, if the body has an approximately equal number of omega-3 and omega-6 molecules, then pro- and anti-inflammatory substances are also formed equally. This makes it possible to maintain a healthy balance of power, when the body can respond adequately to the infection, and does not kill itself with unnecessary inflammation.

Not so long ago, scientists studied the ratio of the intake of omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids into the body of representatives of industrially undeveloped civilizations, whose individuals are very healthy people. And very rarely suffer from those diseases that we.

Here's what it turned out.

For those tribes that are hunters, the ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 is from 2:1 before 4:1. For those peoples who live mainly through fishing, 1: 4.

According to theoretical calculations, the best ratio of omega-6: omega-3 should be 1:1 .

And for most people in modern society it is 16:1 . For some, values ​​can be even more dramatic. This and 20:1 and 50:1 .

Why is the ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 so wrong?

There are two explanations for this fact.

First, the lack of intake of omega-3 fatty acids. And secondly, an excess of omega-6 molecules. Moreover, the second reason is much more significant than the first.

The thing is a huge amount of vegetable fats, which today are in high gear in Western society.

In the graph below, you can see how many omega-6 and omega-3 molecules are contained in which oil.

It is easy to see that those oils that are most popular (for our country it is sunflower) are rich in omega-6 fats.

The following graph shows that the amount of omega-6 fatty acids that can be found in the human body, such as subcutaneous tissue, has increased by more than 200% over the past 50 years.

And how could it be otherwise, when today most people cook on the so-called "healthy" vegetable fats.

How to restore balance?

  • 1. First and foremost, reduce the amount of omega-6 fatty acids that enter the body. Mostly when cooking.
On this infographic you can see more detailed information about which fats can be cooked and which ones are dangerous.

Reducing the intake of omega-6 acids is the most effective and affordable way to normalize the ratio of omega-6: omega-3.

  • 2. Obviously, the second way to improve the ratio of omega-6 and omega-3 acids is to increase the amount of omega-3.

And here it is necessary to give a few explanations.

  • First, an increase in omega-3 intake alone without a reduction in omega-6 is unlikely to significantly change the situation for the better. Therefore, changing the diet based on omega-6, everything will have to be early.
  • Secondly, increasing omega-3 intake is not easy. In any case, it is much more difficult to seize omega-6.

The most effective way is to use supplements with omega-3s, the choice of which is also a difficult task.

You can read in more detail about which dietary supplements with omega-3, and how to choose and use them correctly, in this article.

As for the foods that supply the human body with omega-3 fatty acids, there are also a number of difficulties.

There are many omega-3 acids in animal products, for example, in beef or yolks of chicken eggs. But only if the cows grazed on the field and ate grass, and the hens bite the grain. Obviously, it is extremely difficult to find such beef or eggs and such products are very expensive.

If meat or eggs were obtained from animals raised by modern methods of animal husbandry, then they practically do not have omega-3 fatty acids. But a lot of omega-6.

The same is true for seafood. However, here the situation is still a little better. Since omega-3 fatty acids are much less in farm fish than in wild fish. But they are still in it.

As for another source of omega-3 acids that has been widely advertised lately - plant foods, such as chia or flax seeds, the situation is as follows.

Plant foods do not have the kind of omega-3 fatty acids that people need. There is only their predecessor - alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) - the percentage of conversion of which into the "correct" omega-3 molecules is negligible (maximum 0.5%). Therefore, plant foods do not make sense to eat for omega-3.

HERE, you can get more detailed information about which omega-3 molecules are needed by the human body and why.

Moreover, many people have so many of these acids that it can take a single year to get rid of them.

To normalize the amount of omega-6 and omega-3 acids, you must:

  • practically eliminate harmful vegetable oils from your diet - sunflower, corn, soybean,
  • saturate your menu with quality meat and fish products and / or take supplements with omega-3 fatty acids.

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