Among the different types of fats that we find in our table every day, there are the so-called polyunsaturated fatty acids within which are the omega-3 and omega-6. Among these there must be a balance that is of great importance for the organism and then we tell you why.
Differences between omega 3 and omega 6
Although omega 3 is the best known type of fat, omega 6 is the most abundant because it is distributed in many more foods than the first.
Thus, the linoleic acid that represents omega 6 together with other fatty acids is found in all vegetable oils, seeds, nuts, meats, whole grains, legumes and their derivatives, while the omega 3 which is alpha-linolenic acid or ALA, docosahexaenoic acid or DHA and eicosapentaenoic acid or EPA is found mostly in fish oil and fatty fish found in smaller amounts in seeds, nuts and oils thereof.
Due to this difference in distribution in food, nowadays omega 6 is widely used to elaborate processed and ultra processed products and this fatty acid is consumed in much greater proportions than omega 3.
In addition to this difference in food sources, there is a considerable difference in the effect of these two fats in the body.
For its part, omega 3 has an anti-inflammatory and autoimmune effect that has been linked to a lower risk of suffering from different diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, Crohn’s disease, lupus and others, while omega 6 in large quantities has the opposite effect, with proinflammatory action.
The importance of the balance between omega 3 and omega 6
Our ancestors had a diet in which both types of fats were in similar proportions, that is, the omega 3/omega 6 ratio was 1 in 1, whereas at present this has changed considerably and it may be one of the many causes of the high incidence of diseases mediated by inflammatory processes.
In fact, a study carried out indicates that eating a hyper-fat diet but with an omega 6/omega 3 ratio lower than the one we currently have protects against the accumulation of fat in the liver or fatty liver that could be another marker more of the metabolic syndrome so prevalent today.
Similarly, an imbalance between omega 6 and omega 3 could be linked to a higher incidence of emotional disorders, as well as a review of different studies concludes that reducing the relationship between omega 6 and omega 3 could be helpful for prevent cardiovascular diseases and others such as cancer, because among other things, an excess of omega 6 increases lipid peroxidation and oxidative stress in the body that can induce these and other pathologies.
Reducing the omega 6/omega 3 ratio we currently have (approximately 15:1) and getting closer to what our ancestors had could not only prevent these diseases but reduce the severity and improve the control of others in which the inflammatory processes are predominant as indicated by an investigation conducted in the United States. It would even be a key to reducing insulin resistance behind most of today’s metabolic disorders.
How to approach a balance between omega 6 and omega 3
The diet that our ancestors had in the Paleolithic was rich in fats in general but with an abundant proportion of omega 3 derived not only from the intake of marine animals but also from the large consumption of hunting animals that were fed with herbs, fruits and seeds rich in this type of fat.
The greater consumption of nuts and seeds that they had with respect to the present time was also a big difference that favored the balance between omega 6 and omega 3.
Nowadays, with a totally different diet, the omega 6/omega 3 ratio is higher than 15: 1 and hence the importance of trying to approach the balance again if we want to protect health.
To begin with, it is key to consume more fish, since the fish oil or fat that offer the samples with higher lipid content is more beneficial than omega 3 of vegetable origin.
On the other hand, go to certain oils with more omega 3 as is the case of chia seed oil or rosehip oil could be helpful, like using nut oil or rapeseed oil.
It could also be helpful to reduce the omega 6 that we consume, moderating for example the consumption of meats, fried foods, grains in general and especially of processed and ultra-processed products that, except for fish products, are not a source of omega 3 but of omega 6.
Moving away from a Western diet and approaching a Mediterranean diet could be another resource to regain the balance between omega 6 and Omega 3 that our health needs.