Omega-3 vs Omega-6


News from the Nutrition Front

Perhaps it was inevitable that the anti-fat frenzy would have a backlash.  Now a growing number of health experts believe that people who don’t get enough of certain types of fat may run into trouble.  “The basic problem is that we’re eating too much of the wrong kinds of fat and too little of the right ones,” says William Conner, M.D., a professor of medicine n the division of clinical nutrition at Oregon Health Sciences University in Portland.  The “wrong” kinds of fats still include the saturated type found in red meat, chicken skin and butter, as well as “trans” fat, the partially hydrogenated vegetable oil in margarine and other processed foods.  “But”, Conner explains, “Americans also get too much of a fat long considered beneficial, omega-6, a polyunsaturated fat that is a constituent of corn oil, safflower oil and sunflower oil.”

Omega-6 is heart-healthful, its true.  But, a downside of taking too much omega-6 is that it blocks the effects of another kind of fat that’s even more protective: omega-3, a fat found in salmon, sardines, mackerel, trout, anchovies and various fatty fish.  “Studies show that the ideal ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 is 4 to 1;  the ratio in the US is 20 to 1,”  laments Artemis P. Simopoulos, M.D., president of the Center for Genetics, Nutrition, and Health in Washington, D.C., and co-author of The Omega Diet.

Benefits of Omega-3

• Protects against heart attacks
• Reduces the chance that someone with heart disease will die of a heart attack
• Eases joint pain
• Benefit the brain
• Reduces the symptoms of manic depression and schizophrenia
• Supplementing omega-3 in infant formula for premature babies helps boost vision and possibly intelligence.

Joseph Hebbeln, M.D., chief of outpatients at The National Institute of Alcohol and Alcoholism, explains: “What’s at work isn’t entirely clear, but it seems to have to do with the fact that one type of omega-3, DHA, is highly concentrated in the brain.”  He adds, “It appears that getting adequate amounts of omega-3 may increase the concentration of the mood elevating neurotransmitter serotonin.”
While omega-6 prevents omega-3 from doing its good work, monounsaturated fat (the kind in olive oil and canola oil) doesn’t block omega-3.  Monounsaturated fat also drives down harmful LDL blood cholesterol and maintains desirable HDL blood cholesterol.

So, what’s a health minded person to do?

• Eat less saturated fat
• Bypass corn oil and safflower oil (Full of omega-6)
• Increase using olive oil and canola oil
• Eat omega-3 “Fatty Fish”: trout, mackerel, bluefin tuna, salmon, bluefish, sardines
• Eat more nuts like walnuts, hazelnuts and almonds
• Add more dark leafy greens
• Avocados

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