Tag Archives: Omega-6

The balancing act- Omega 3:Omega 6

Omega-6/Omega-3 Ratio and Health

Now that you know what an Omega-6/Omega-3 imbalance might look like in your body (see my blog ‘I see the signs’), why is it so important?

What can this imbalance do to your health?

Potentially this imbalance can cause some really nasty things. It was summed up by the editor of the proceedings from a recent major scientific conference on this subject-

“A higher omega-6/omega-3 ratio is associated with increased risk for coronary heart disease, colorectal cancer, asthma, osteoporosis, arthritis, and neurodegenerative diseases and various aspects of mental illness, violent behavior, and deficient cognition in both children and the elderly.”

That’s a pretty serious list, which includes many of the very common health issues that face many people and entire families. The consensus from the delegates at the conference is that the optimum ratio of Omega-6/Omega-3 is about 2 -3 or less.

Why will this happen?

Major changes have taken place in our diet in the last 10,000 years, since the beginning of the Agricultural Revolution, yet our genes have changed very little over the same period (perhaps 0.005%).

So today most of us eat very differently from the way for which our genes are programmed. Studies of the diet we ate as our bodies evolved indicate that the major changes that have happened since then include:

  • The type and amount of essential fatty acids
  • The antioxidant content of foods
  • The amount of dietary fibre.

How has this happened?

These changes have been exacerbated in the last 50 years by the advent of the modern vegetable oil industry, which has seen rapid growth in the production and, more importantly, promotion of “polyunsaturated” or Omega-6 oils. This has lead to rapid growth in their consumption, because we are “educated” by the vegetable oil industry to believe it is the healthy thing to do. (Check out my earlier blog “Are they pulling the ‘OIL’ over your eyes”)

What we used to eat:

Estimates of the food eaten by our forbears in the late Paleolithic period (our Hunter Gatherer phase) suggest an Omega-6/Omega-3 of 0.8/1 – in other words more Omega-3 than Omega-6.

What we eat now:

Similar estimates for the present Western diet show that it is both ’deficient’ in Omega-3 and with an Omega-6/Omega-3 ratio of 16 – 20/1 or even up to 30/1.

Thus there has been both an absolute and relative decrease in the amount of Omega-3 consumed in the diet.

How can you change this?

To redress this major imbalance it is important to:

1. Substantially reduce your intake of Omega-6 oils by switching to the healthier Omega-9 oils for cooking (See my blog “What are Omega-9 fats”) and by reducing the amount of junk food your family eats.

2. Increase your intake of Omega-3.

Flax seed oil (FSO) is the only Omega-3 oil capable of reducing this imbalance. Oils like hemp and walnut still contain more Omega-6 than Omega-3. (See my blog “What are the Omega-3 fats”)

While taking a few fish or flax capsules a day will have some impact on your health, such action is going to do little to change this major imbalance. Getting 1 – 2 tbsp per day of fresh Flax Seed oil into your diet is the most practical way to correct this imbalance.

How long to get in balance?

It is likely to take at least six months or even several years, depending on the amount of Omega-6 (think junk food!) in your diet and how much Flax oil you take.

How will I know when this has happened?

After taking Flax oil for some time you will reach a point when you get too much Omega-3, because the balance has tipped the other way i.e. an Omega-6/Omega-3 of less than 1. When this happens you will see the return of one of the symptoms of EFA imbalance (see my Blog “I see the signs”) – this will typically be the symptom you had in the first place.

Once you get to this point, then you need to start taking an oil blend that has equal amounts of Omega3 and Omega-6 to maintain good health e.g. Flax Balance from Waihi Bush Organic Farm. Any symptoms of an imbalance will quickly disappear.


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I see the signs

The signs of Omega-3 deficiency

Author’s note: In my last post I talked about the fact that your skin, hair or nails are usually the first place you see a lack of Omega-3, following this, many of you asked about other things that may be indicators of an Omega-3 deficiency, so I have outlined some more for you.

A lack of Omega-3 in the diet is more common than you might think, most people on a typical western diet are getting more Omega-6 than they need (see “What are Omega-6 fats?” blog) and not enough Omega-3 – this causes an imbalance in the body that often displays itself as the symptoms of an Omega-3 deficiency.

Typically this lack of Omega-3 will show up as one or more of the following physical symptoms:
  • Excessive thirst
  • Excessive ear wax
  • Dandruff
  • Frequent urination
  • Irritability
  • Attention deficit
  • Soft, brittle or easily frayed nails
  • Allergies
  • Lowered immunity
  • Fatigue
  • Hyperactivity
  • Dry eyes
  • Poor wound healing
  • Frequent infections
  • Learning and memory problems
  • Patches of pale skin on cheeks
  • Cracked skin on heels or fingertips
  • Craving for rich fatty foods

“Ouch – that’s a long list, several of these are me” you say?

You are right, it is a long list but many of these conditions can be easily remedied by returning to a better balance of Omega 3 and 6. By changing your diet to include things like flax seed oil that are high in Omega-3, you can boost the levels of Omega-3 in your body and return to this better ‘balance’ – more on that later.

“The list also seems to potentially include any part of the body?”

Yes it does, because all the cells in your body should have Omega-3 in their cell membranes to function smoothly, so lack of Omega-3 can manifest in many ways throughout the body.

Everybody is different – your diet, exercise levels and mental attitude all affect the way your body is going to show an Omega-6/Omega-3 imbalance.

Most people I see are exhibiting some symptoms of lack of Omega-3 – but no I don’t go around looking for lots of ear wax.

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Pamper your skin

How to get that Healthy Glow

All of us want to have that healthy glow that comes with radiant good health and vast sums of money are spent on trying to create that look using cosmetics.

There is an increasing realisation that the best way to get that healthy glow is to look at the nutritional factors missing in your diet that could be supplemented to create that beauty from within that comes with real wellness – enter the concept of neutraceuticals!

One of the key neutraceuticals is flax seed oil, because usually the first place you see a lack of Omega-3 is on your skin or hair and nails.

Typically lack of Omega-3 can manifest as one or more of the following. 

• Dry, scaly or bumpy skin
• Eczema
• Acne
• Dermatitis
• Psoriasis
• Slow healing
• Dry lack lustre hair
• Dry brittle nails

Why can this happen?

The ALA in flax seed oil is a key building block for healthy cell membranes. So if your body is lacking in Omega 3 it will use whatever fats you are consuming to build your skin cells – this can lead to “leaky membranes”, which is a primary cause of allergic conditions such as eczema.

One of the characteristics of ALA is that the molecule is not straight like a saturated fat molecule, but is kinked because of the presence of three double bonds.

This unique shape means that it will pack neatly into the cell wall and create a membrane that is flexible, but retains its integrity.

Skin cells made from “bad fats” are likely to have compromised integrity and so be susceptible to toxins and irritants in the environment such as pollen, soaps, foods and various chemical allergens.

Can Omega-3 help in other ways?

The prostaglandins, which dampen down inflammation, are made from Omega 3, so taking flax seed oil also helps regulate inflammation, which is important in skin conditions such as Psoriasis.

What is some of the science around Omega-3 and skin?

In a recent study with healthy women with sensitive or dry skin, supplementing with only 2.2g per day of flax seed oil reduced skin reddening after applying a chemical irritant.

Skin hydration was increased and trans dermal water loss was reduced, with the improvement continuing throughout the 12-week experiment.

The incidence of skin roughness and scaling were also reduced. Borage oil, which is rich in Omega-6, was not as effective as flax seed oil.

A follow-up study confirmed the same greater effectiveness of the Omega-3 – flax seed oil compared to an Omega-6 oil and also measured an improvement in skin smoothness.

What is the best way to take flax seed oil to maximise the effect on my skin?

Make a delicous yoghurt smoothie

The ideal way to take flax seed oil is to make a yoghurt – flax seed oil – fresh fruit smoothie. These combine to make a delicious drink to start your day.

Cottage cheese spread/dip

Another alternative is to us a whizz stick to mix up low fat cottage cheese and flax seed oil and add herbs or spices to make a spread or dip.

The important part of either of these recipe ideas is to make sure the flax oil is mixed at high speed to create an emulsion or “lipoprotein” that can be absorbed straight from your stomach into your bloodstream and from there into your cell walls.

The ALA in flax seed oil and the sulphur amino acids found in abundance in milk protein combine in your cell wall to become a major component of the oxygen transport system into your cell.

The big bonus from this is, not only do you maximise the benefits for your skin, but most people experience an energy lift as well.

I have a friend who was recovering from ME who had experienced a useful lift in energy from taking flax seed oil straight. His wife then started taking the oil in a smoothie to help with her cellulite and fed him some smoothie as well and within 2 days he had another lift in energy.

Massage oil

The ultimate way to recieve flax oil for your skin is to get your imtimate partner to give you a full body massage.

Being light and non sticky it makes a lovely oil to use for a massage and leaves your skin feeling wonderful – I liken it to feeling like you have just swum in a mountain stream.

The essential fatty acids are readily absorbed into your skin to truly nourish your body.

After your massage you do need to wait until all the oil is absorbed or have a quick rinse under the shower, otherwise the high levels of carotene pigment that give it the characteristic yellow colour could stain your clothes.


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“World Beating Flax Seed Oil”

What makes waihi bush organic farm flaxseed oil the best?

The way its grown

Our certified organic growers are audited annually to ensure they meet the strictest organic standards – not only do they meet the NZ Food Safety Authority standards, but in addition I require our growers to meet the USA National Organic Standards.

Flavour varies from farm to farm, so I select our growers who consistently give us good flavour – most of them grow on the fertile Canterbury plains although I do have growers from South Otago to Hawkes Bay.

The climate it grows in

The small size of New Zealand, with our mountains so close to the sea, gives us an unusual combination of alpine and maritime climates. While we have hot days during the seed-ripening phase, we also mostly have cool nights.

This means that the plants have extra surplus energy to store in the seed as the Omega-3 ALA. A research project at Lincoln University suggests that on average our oils are 5% higher in ALA than other growing regions around the world, because of our unique climate.

The way its looked after

I have perfected the way we look after our seed during the extraction process, protecting it from damaging light, oxygen and heat all the way through to the bottle. We also carefully test and taste our oil to make sure it meets our stringent quality standards.

I have tasted most of the flax seed oils available in Europe, North America and Asia, most of them I would never put in a bottle and I have only found two that come close to us, in having a pleasant nutty flavour – the way all Flax Seed oil should be (if it doesn’t taste like this it will be actively bad for your health).

Our blends

Our blends are unique; in that I have studied the science about the way your body uses both Primary and Secondary Omega-3 and Omega-6 (see the blogs on these EFAs for more information). Other blends, such as Udo’s Choice Oil Blend, supplement Flax seed oil with secondary Omega-6 from Evening Primrose oil. Such a blend completely ignores the science that show that your body uses the same enzymes to convert the Primary Omega-3 and Omega-6 to the many by products your body needs to function in a healthy manner.

So if you need to supplement with secondary Omega-6 you MUST supplement with secondary Omega-3 as well to keep your metabolism in balance

Thus I developed the technology around cold pressing blackcurrant seed oil to provide a tasty source of the Secondary Omega-3s your body needs to balance the Secondary Omega-6s from Evening Primrose seed oil (more later).

To get your body functioning correctly and into balance (See Omega-3 Blog) as quickly as possible I have designed a three-stage program.

Flax Boost

This tasty blend is mostly Flax Seed oil, but has physiologically balanced amounts of Secondary Omega-3 and Omega-6 from Blackcurrant and Evening Primrose seed oils. These bypasses an enzyme blockage caused by the stresses of modern life (the delta-6-desaturase or D6D enzyme).

This blend ensures that your body responds quickly, so that you are motivated to continue taking the oil because your body feels better.

A number of studies have shown that within 4 – 6 weeks of consuming high quality Flax Seed oil, the D6D enzyme will be working correctly, allowing you to progress to the slightly cheaper Flax Original.

The only people who are exceptions to this are diabetics and a very small number of people where the D6D is non functional – these people need to stay on Flax Boost.

Flax Original

New Zealand’s first home-grown Flax Seed oil hit the market over 17 years ago and has been New Zealand’s favourite Flax Seed oil ever since.

When you switch from Flax Boost to Flax Original, you need to be very aware of your physical and mental state. If it stays the same or continues to improve then your D6D enzyme pathway is functioning normally, which will be the case for most people. If you are one of the few where the D6D does not function normally then you will need to go back to eating Flax Boost.Flax Original has a Omega-6:Omega-3 ratio of 0.3, so if eaten regularly over 3 – 6 years will reduce the Omega-6:Omega-3 ratio of your body to close to the ideal 1:1 needed for optimum wellness.

Flax Balance

Contains Omega-6 and Omega-3 in equal amounts, so is designed to keep you in a state of wellness by providing balanced amounts of the key fats needed as building blocks for the millions of new cells your body creates every day. This is the diet your body evolved with and needs to have for optimum wellness.

How do you tell if your body has reached the desired 1:1 Omega-6/Omega-3 ratio?

Most likely it will be the return of the original symptoms that got onto taking Flax Seed oil in the first place.

How so?

These symptoms were caused by an imbalance of the Omega-6/Omega-3 ratio i.e. too much Omega-6. This time they will be caused by an excess of Omega-3 – which is easily fixed by switching to Flax Balance.

How long will it take before you are ready for Flax Balance?

It varies enormously of course because we are all different in the way we eat and live, which is why no one oil blend is right for everybody all of the time, as some “experts” would have us believe.

Tip of the Day

For an energy lift try making a smoothie of Flax Seed oil, yoghurt and some fresh or frozen berry fruit – the perfect way to consume Flax seed oil (more later)

Also see http://waihibush.co.nz/recipes.htm

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Are they pulling the ‘OIL’ over your eyes


This post aims to clarify how the oils you can buy are produced and how to tell good quality oils and be confident they will not damage your health.  

Seed Oils

These are all the type of oils you are being offered on the shelf in your local supermarket, don’t assume that all oil is equal so read the labels and ingredients carefully, a lot of oil is blended.

Cold pressed

This term means that the seed is extracted using a screw press, but the seed is not pre cooked to break down the cell structure and release more oil.  That does not mean that temperatures reached in this process are not high enough to start the breakdown of EFAs.  Cold pressed should mean quality oil, but in fact is often used on oil labels where the oil has been Refined (See below).

How can you tell unrefined oil? There is an easy infallible test – if it doesn’t smell and taste of the seed that came from, it has been refined.  

Unfortunately many of the “cold pressed” oils on the shelf have been refined, which involves some pretty nasty processes. (read on…)  

Expeller Pressed


The oil is extracted by a screw press and may or may not have been cooked, so the term is often used instead of cold pressed.  So while there has been no solvent use, it does not mean the oil has not been refined.

Solvent extracted 

Oils like soy, rice bran, grape seed and corn on the supermarket shelf are usually extracted the “modern” way, using an oil based solvent because this method is capable of cheaply extracting oil from low oil containing sources like these.

Hexane is the main solvent used and is a cheap byproduct of petroleum refining, so it’s a perfect solution to use it to extract oil from seeds cheaply – it surely doesn’t matter if it leaves a small residue in the oil?  Well maybe it is a neurotoxin, which can give the glue sniffers the high they are after – but hey?  


Refined oils

Most oils in the supermarket have been through the whole industrial process which involves: 

Cleaning & Cooking: 

The seeds are mechanically cleaned and then cooked at temperatures well over 100°C. This breaks down the cell structure to aid oil extraction, but such high temperatures start the oxidation process. 

Oil extraction:

The cooked seeds are expeller pressed at high pressures and temperature and the seed cake is then solvent extracted. The damaged oils which result from these processes need to be cleaned up so that they are palatable. 


Phosphoric acid and water are mixed with the oil to strip out the lecithin (which helps your body to digest oil), minerals and chlorophyll. 


Caustic soda or soda ash are added to settle out the damaged fats, waxes and phospholipids which can promote oxidation. But these two steps also take any naturally occurring antioxidants like Vitamin E or A. 


Fullers earth, activated clay or activated carbon are used to remove the last of the soaps and protective pigments. These three steps are all done at high temperatures, which cause substantial oxidation of the EFAs. 


Steam at destructively high temperatures and pressures is passed through the oil to remove all the volatile flavour components, some of the damaged oil fragments and any remaining natural antioxidants. 

What is left is a pale, bland flavourless, oil which contains damaged EFAs and is extremely susceptible to oxidation. 

Of course light is extremely damaging to oils, so to allow such oils to be put on the supermarket shelf in a clear plastic bottle, a synthetic antioxidant is added – many of these are suspected to promote cancer. 


What does this mean for the health of you and your children?

Refined oils are similar to white flour and white sugar in that they are empty calories with none of the cofactors needed for healthy metabolism.  

Yes, they do contain some undamaged Omega-6, but most people have way too much Omega-6 in their body anyway and you seriously need to cut down on the amount you eat.  

These oils also contain nasty byproducts of the refining process so are actively damaging to your health – your body uses the fats present in your bloodstream to make millions of new cells each day so you need to eat only undamaged fats.  

So what are your options for getting healthy undamaged oil from the supermarket?


The Good Oils to Cook with:

If you can find unrefined Macadamia, almond or canola oil they are high in Omega-9 and good to use.  

However there are really only two readily available options – Olive oil or Avocado oil and of these only the Virgin or Extra Virgin have not been solvent extracted or refined.  

These two oils come from the flesh of the olive or avocado, so are extracted by a very different method.  For supermarket oils the fruit is ground to break down the cell structure and churned to release the oil.  The fibre and juice are separated from the oil by a sophisticated centrifuge.  

The different grades are:  

Extra virgin

Solvent extraction is not permitted for virgin labeled oils.  Because there can be a lot of oxidation during the grinding and churning process, only oil that has been tested to have low damage and superior taste can be called extra virgin.  



Non solvent extracted oil which has lesser taste and higher levels of oxidation – but still good oil.  


This is a rather misleading name as you could think that this means lower calorie/fat which it isn’t. It is solvent extracted from the pomace after the virgin oils and has been refined so that it has no flavour components left. Not a healthy oil.  

The Good Oils Not to Cook with:

The unrefined nut and seed oils with high levels of Omega-6 – see Omega-6 blog, should not be used for cooking. Cooking exposes them to heat, light and oxygen all at once and the Omega-6 molecule is much more easily damaged than the Omega-9 molecule because of the extra double bond.  

Extra Virgin Flax seed oil is also a very healthy oil – see Omega-3 blog, but is even more easily damaged by cooking because Omega-3 contains 3 double bonds.  


Most oils in the supermarket have been so badly damaged in the manufacturing process that they are not fit to put into your body.
So don’t be fooled by the big letters saying ‘Cold Pressed’ – check the label to see if it is unrefined – if it doesn’t say unrefined assume it has been refined or try the taste.
The readily available good oils are Virgin and Extra Virgin Olive, Avocado and Flax Seed oils

Tip of the Day

A healthy and tasty  combination to use in cooking is about half and half butter and Virgin or Extra Virgin Olive oil (See Butter vs. Margarine blog)  


Check out the best oils at http://functionalwholefoods.co.nz/

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Butter or Margarine for my health?

A recent study on dietary influences on IQ turned up a surprising connection: children who ate margarine regularly scored significantly lower on intelligence tests than their peers. The study was conducted by researchers from Auckland University in New Zealand and published in the journal Intelligence.

After adjusting for other factors that might influence IQ, including socio-economic status, the researchers found that children who ate margarine daily scored three points lower on IQ tests by the age of three-and-a-half than children with lower margarine consumption. By the age of seven, the average IQ scores of some margarine eaters were six points below those of their peers.
The researchers suggested that the reason for this may be the trans fats present in margarine, which are now well known for their damaging effect on our metabolism.


The partial hydrogenation method used to make many margarine’s involves bubbling hydrogen through an Omega-6 or 9 oil (i.e. soybean or OLIVE oil) at high pressure and high temperature (120 – 240 oC) in the presence of an aluminium/nickel catalyst (leaving residues of nasty heavy metals in the product).

Hydrogenation attacks the double bond present in both Omega-6 and 9 oils in a random fashion, potentially either – shifting them along the molecule, rotating them into trans fats or clipping the molecule into fragments. The potential number of different molecules made by this random process is staggering and has never been fully characterised.


Because of the image damaging trans fat problem with hydrogenation, many margarine manufacturers now use a method called interesterification to make a margarine with lower levels of trans fats. This involves complete hydrogenation of an Omega-6 or Omega-9 oil, which means the damaged fragments of fat created by this process are still present.
The resulting solid fat is then mixed with an Omega-6 or Omega-9 oil in the presence of enzymes or catalysts to modify the triglyceride structure of the blended oil into molecules that do not normally exist in nature but which give the right texture.

Does this process make a margarine which is any better for your health? Well actually recent evidence suggests not.
The first longer term human study showed that after only four weeks on a diet with a high proportion of interesterified margarine, there were substantial adverse health effects. Fasting glucose was raised by 20%, to a level considered pre-diabetic and insulin production was reduced. This diet also reduced the HDL: LDL ratio in a similar manner to Trans fats.
(Yes I have read the rebuttal of this data by Nestle, who are major producers of interesterified fats, and they used a very dubious statistical model to suggest the results weren’t valid.)

Try This

If you are not convinced, try this little experiment – take a lump of butter and margarine and put them on a plate somewhere accessible out of the sun.
When I did this, it took three days for a mouse to find them and eat all the butter. When I threw the margarine out 3 months later it was still sitting there totally inert – the mouse wouldn’t eat it, insects hadn’t touched it and no fungus had grown on it. In other words IT IS NOT FOOD – there are no enzymes in nature or in your body to digest it.
Since your body uses whatever fats are in your blood stream to make the cell walls of the billions of new cells it makes daily, eating bad fats like margarine is going to affect many bodily processes.

So is it surprising that your brain and your children’s brains don’t function as well if you have margarine – not to me!

Butter is Better

So go and enjoy a moderate level of butter in your diet – I do (well according to my family it’s not a very moderate amount at all – they accuse me of having toast on my butter).

Tip of the Day.

 You can make very healthy soft butter by combining a softened 500 g pack of butter with a 250 ml bottle of Flax Original in your food processor. Store in the fridge, preferably in a light-proof container.

Check out the best oils at http://functionalwholefoods.co.nz/

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What are the Omega-3 fats?

Omega 3’s are one of the two Essential Fatty Acids (EFAs – see Omega-6 blog) and the one you will hear most about in the media.
It is called an EFA because your body is not able to make the primary Omega-3 (alpha linolenic acid – ALA – see diagram) from other fats, so you have to get your supplies of Omega-3 in your food.

The richest source of Omega-3 (ALA), readily available in stores, is flax seed oil (61%). Flax seed oil also contains 16% Omega-6 and 14% Omega-9.
(Due to crazy labeling laws in NZ we are not permitted to put the Omega-6 content on our labels, unless we have more than 40% Omega-6, so our labels do not show the Omega-6 content).
Organic flax oil is produced by a sustainable process (unlike fish oil).

The only other readily available plant oils with useful amounts of Omega-3 are hemp seed oil and walnut oil (See Table).
There are a few unusual nut and seed oils which do contain useful quantities of ALA , but they are not readily available and are expensive.
You will get a little Omega-3 out of free range or grass-fed meats and green leafy vegetables – so be like Pop-eye and eat your spinach

You recall (from the Omega-6 Blog) that our bodies evolved with an equal 1 : 1 ratio of Omega-6 : Omega-3, but most people now have a ratio of between 10 to 30 : 1 in their body – way too much Omega-6.
So how do you get enough Omega-3 in your diet to get your body back into the balance it needs to be WELL?

If you look at the Omega-6 : Omega-3 ratio of what are often considered the Omega-3 oils, the flax seed oil is the only one with more Omega-3 than Omega-6, so eating more hemp and walnut oil is not going to do much to improve the balance of Omega-6 : Omega-3 in your body.

So flax seed oil is the only readily available source of ALA which has the potential to reduce the major imbalance of Omega-6 and Omega-3 in your body and get it back to close to 1:1, as nature designed you to be.
That does not mean you should take straight flax seed oil every day for the rest of your life – that has the potential to be just as bad for you as too much Omega-6. Once your balance is restored then you need an oil like our Flax Balance to maintain wellness.

There is a lot of work showing very strongly that it’s not enough to treat lack of Omega-3 like – say a shortage of zinc and take a zinc supplement.
You need to get flax oil into your diet (rather than a couple of fish oil capsules) to get your Omega-6 and Omega-3 in BALANCE to get the major benefits to your wellness (more on this shortly).
The secondary Omega-3’s are obtained from plant oils like blackcurrant and from fish oils – more on that to come.

David Musgrave

Check out the best oils at http://functionalwholefoods.co.nz/

    Tip of the Day

Eat free range or organic eggs – they will give you useful amounts of Omega-3.

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