Your Diet is Not as Healthy as You Think
Balancing the amount of Omega-6 to Omega-3 in our diets is essential for reducing inflammation and maintaining overall health. Unfortunately, the typical North American diet is heavily skewed towards Omega-6, with a ratio of over 20:1. This imbalance is a major contributor to the chronic inflammation that is at the root of many of the diseases we face today.
Eicosanoids are a class of signalling molecules that play a key role in the inflammatory response. They are produced from the essential fatty acids found in our diet, specifically Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids. The balance between these two types of eicosanoids is critical for maintaining a healthy inflammatory response.
When we consume too much Omega-6 and not enough Omega-3, we tip the balance towards pro-inflammatory eicosanoids, which can lead to a chronic state of inflammation in the body. This inflammation has been linked to a wide range of diseases and conditions, including heart disease, cancer, rheumatoid arthritis, Alzheimer's, dementia and more.
One of the key ways to balance the Omega-6 to Omega-3 ratio and reduce inflammation is by increasing our intake of EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid), an Omega-3 fatty acid that has been shown to be particularly effective at reducing inflammation. EPA works by competing with Omega-6 fatty acids for the same enzymes that produce eicosanoids. This competition leads to a shift towards the production of anti-inflammatory eicosanoids, which can help to reduce chronic inflammation in the body.
In addition to increasing EPA intake, there are several other strategies that can help to balance the Omega-6 to Omega-3 ratio, including:
- Limiting intake of processed foods and vegetable oils high in Omega-6, such as soybean oil, corn oil, and sunflower oil.
- Eating more foods high in Omega-3, such as fatty fish (like salmon and sardines), walnuts, flaxseeds, and chia seeds.
- Consuming plant-based sources of Omega-3 like algae based supplements.
Balancing the Omega-6 to Omega-3 ratio is critical for reducing inflammation and promoting overall health. By increasing our intake of EPA and other Omega-3 fatty acids, while limiting our intake of Omega-6, we can help to shift the balance towards anti-inflammatory eicosanoids, which can help to reduce chronic inflammation and the risk of many diseases.
- Simopoulos AP. The importance of the ratio of omega-6/omega-3 essential fatty acids. Biomed Pharmacother. 2002 Oct;56(8):365-79. doi: 10.1016/S0753-3322(02)00253-6. PMID: 12442909.
- James MJ, Gibson RA, Cleland LG. Dietary polyunsaturated fatty acids and inflammatory mediator production. Am J Clin Nutr. 2000 Sep;72(3 Suppl):455S-463S. doi: 10.1093/ajcn/72.3.455s. PMID: 10954910.
- Geusens P, Wouters C, Nijs J, Jiang Y, Dequeker J. Long-term effect of omega-3 fatty acid supplementation in active rheumatoid arthritis. A 12-month, double-blind, controlled study. Arthritis Rheum. 1994 Oct;37(10):1517-22. doi: 10.1002/art