Tag Archives: Omega-6/Omega-3 ratio

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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“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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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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