So, omega 3 fatty acids are good for you. What about omega 6 fatty acids? Well, they might not be so good for you but they are important. Omega6 fatty acids are Pro-Inflammatory while omega3 fatty acids are anti-inflammatory. We need both inflammatory processes to protect our bodies and anti-inflammatory processes to make sure the inflammation doesn’t get out of control. Unfortunately, our western diet is filled with Omega 6 fatty acids. What is important is the balance of omega 6 and omega 3. The average American omega 6 to omega3 ratio is 16:1 where is should be 4:1 or less. It is possible to quantify your omega 3 index and your omega 6: omega 3 ratio. I am a proponent of monitoring these numbers every 6 months or yearly. It is a part of almost all of my initial assessments. Ask your physician about this.
THREE MAIN TYPES OF OMEGA 3’s
- ALA – Alpha Linoleic acid
- DHA – Docosahexaenoic acid
- EPA – Eicosapentaenoic acid
ALA is not as active in the body as EPA and DHA. ALA needs to be converted to EPA (about 5% of the ALA) and then DHA (<0.5% of the ALA). Therefore, it does matter what kind of Omega 3 fatty acids you ingest. You have to have much more ALA to get adequate EPA and DHA. In general, ALA is found in plant-based foods and EPA/DHA in animals. Most recommendations for Omega 3 fatty acids are recommending EPA and DHA, not ALA.
Best Sources of Omega 3 & 6 Fatty Acids
Algal Oil (EPA and DHA)
Veggies, Nuts & Seeds
- Brussels sprouts (ALA)
- Edamame (ALA)
- Flax Seeds (ALA)
- Walnuts (ALA)
What should I look for in supplements?
- Is it IFOS (International Fish Oil Standard) certified? This is the highest standard of purity, potency, and freshness. This is to make sure you are not getting mercury and other toxins fish possess.
- How much EPA, DHA, and ALA is in the fish oil?
- Are there any allergens in it, like gluten, wheat, dairy, shellfish, peanuts, tree nuts or eggs. Also, artificial sweeteners, artificial preservatives, artificial colors or GMOs.
- What is the bioavailability or absorption rate? (How much actually gets into your bloodstream)?
- Where are the supplements manufactured and does that manufacturer use GMP (Good Manufacturing Practice)?
- Who is creating the formulations, the proprietary blend, or a unique delivery system and what are their credentials?
As a Reminder: Where is Omega 3 Helpful?
- BRAIN – DHA makes up 40% of the polyunsaturated fats in the brain. DHA makes up 60% of the retina. DHA is in the cell membrane of nerve cells.EPA is known to help both depression and anxiety.
- HEART – Omega3 fatty acids reduce triglycerides and possibly LDL, which are the problematic parts of cholesterol. It also raises HDL (the ‘happy’ or good cholesterol) and it helps platelets (part of your blood) from forming clots.
- INFLAMMATION – Omega 3’s reduces the inflammatory response/cascade in the body. We know inflammation fuels just about every disease including dementia, heart disease, and even cancer.
The 3 primary Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Dr. Laurie Goldman is a medical doctor, psychiatrist, and functional medicine practitioner who’s been in private practice since 1999. She founded Clear Path Wellness to help her patients reach their maximum state of mental and physical health using a personalized, comprehensive approach powered by the principles of functional medicine, which treats the whole person, not just symptoms.