Why Your Omega 3/6 Ratio is More Important Than Your Cholesterol Numbers!
If you are like most people, your cholesterol numbers are measured regularly by your doctor and if he/she deems them elevated, you may be prescribed a cholesterol-lowering drug like a statin to lower your heart disease risk.
But does science support this?
You may be surprised to hear that the real truth may be different, and that the omega 3/6 index is a much better measure of longtime health and survival than your cholesterol.
In the article below I describe evidence-backed benefits for different issues.
Click on an item in the table of contents to directly go there!
Table of Contents:
- Benefits for Heart Health
- Benefits for Brain and Mental Health
- Benefits for Type 2 Diabetes
- Benefits for Skin Health
- Benefits for Eye Health
- Benefits for Pregnancy, Infants and Children
- Benefits For Longevity and Healthy Aging
- Benefits for Back and Joint Pain
- Benefits for the Immune System
- Benefits for Fitness
- Food Sources of Omega 3’s
- Do You Get Enough?
An omega−3 fatty acid is a fatty acid with multiple double bonds, where the first double bond is between the third and fourth carbon atoms from the end of the carbon atom chain. “Short chain” omega−3 fatty acids have a chain of 18 carbon atoms or less, while “long chain” omega−3 fatty acids have a chain of 20 or more. Omega−3 fatty acids occur naturally in two forms, triglycerides and phospholipids. In the triglycerides, they, together with other fatty acids, are bonded to glycerol; three fatty acids are attached to glycerol. Phospholipid omega−3 is composed of two fatty acids attached to a phosphate group via glycerol. (1)
( Image source: Wikipedia)
Both omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids are important structural components of cell membranes, serve as precursors to bioactive lipid mediators, and provide a source of energy. Long-chain omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA) in particular exert anti-inflammatory effects; it is recommended to increase their presence in the diet , since our usual diet high in vegetable oils and fast foods contains too much omega 6-fatty acids which are pro-inflammatory if too much. (2)
2. Heart Health
It has been proven in numerous studies, that omega 3’s especially if taken from food sources like fatty fish like salmon, mackerel, herring, sardines, tuna and trout, are beneficial for health health. If properly absorbed by the gut so your omega3/6 index is in the optimal range, your risk for heart disease, heart attacks and death is markedly lower. (2,3)
In the video above, Christopher Kelly with Nourish Balance Thrive interviewed Dr. Malcolm Kendrick, a British physician and author of “Doctoring Data: How to Sort Out Medical Advice from Medical Nonsense“, “The Great Cholesterol Con,” and “A Statin Nation: Damaging Millions in a Brave New Post-Health World.”
An outline and transcript of the interview can be found on the Nourish Balance Thrive website. In short, the most concerning risk factors for cardiovascular disease are actually insulin resistance, Type 2 diabetes and the chronic inflammation associated with these conditions. However, Kendrick argues there are other factors at play as well, such as how you eat.
There is more scientific evidence behind the cardiovascular benefits of fish oil than any other nutritional supplement. Thousands of clinical studies have shown that increased intake of EPA and DHA—the omega–3 essential fatty acids in fish oil—enhance overall cardiovascular function. The American Heart Association recommends that healthy adults eat fish at least twice a week, and that patients with heart disease take 1 gram EPA+DHA per day, and individuals with high triglycerides, 2–4 grams per day. (9)
The research-backed benefits of fish oil include:• Supports circulation and healthy blood vessel function• Promotes the metabolism of dietary fat and cholesterol• Supports a healthy heart rhythm• Promotes healthy triglyceride levels in healthy individuals• Is natural and safe for long-term use
3. Brain and Mental Health
The huge and rapidly-growing body of clinical research on EPA and DHA in fish oils indicates they are vital to the brain’s blood flow, its overall information processing capabilities, and memory. This also includes other cognitive functions such as mood, the brain’s “executive functioning” to make good decisions, and a calm and controlled demeanor.
Omega-3 EPA and DHA are vital nutritional support for the healthy early development, maturation, and optimal functioning of the brain, heart and circulation, and all the body’s other organs. They are also vital to the survival and optimal functioning of mind and body, across our entire lifespan.(6)
Omega 3 EPA and DHA are really important to the optimal function of your brain and here’s why: DHA makes up a large portion of the gray matter of the brain. DHA and EPA promote healthy blood flow, which is essential to optimal brain function. These fatty acids are major building blocks for membranes, cell structures that are vital for all our cells to function – and are crucial for our cell membranes to perform at their best.
EPA and DHA, the omega–3 essential fatty acids in fish oil, are particularly concentrated in the brain. It is composed of nearly 60% fat—and the nervous system, where they provide necessary building blocks for healthy cells and tissue. DHA, for example, constitutes 20% of the total fatty acids in the cerebral cortex, the outermost layer of the brain responsible for sophisticated information processing like memory and attention. (10)
Our nerve cells, and especially the connections that they make (the synapses) need to be rich in omega-3 fatty acids. Think of omega-3s as high quality motor oil for the finely-tuned engine that is your brain. (6)
Taking a quality fish oil concentrate is a great way to ensure you get enough of these healthy omega-3s.
If you need a little more convincing, take note:
- A growing body of scientific evidence indicates that EPA- and DHA-rich fish oil helps elevate mood. One twenty-year study involving 3,317 men and women found that people with the highest consumption of EPA and DHA were less likely to have mood challenges.
- A tremendous amount of scientific evidence points to a connection between consumption of fish that is rich in omega-3 fatty acids, healthy and cognitive function.
A Danish team of researchers compared the diets of 5,386 healthy older individuals and found that the more fish in a person’s diet, the more likely were these individuals to maintain high-performance memory into old age! (6)
To choose a quality fish oil, be sure it’s ultra pure and choose a product that supplies at least 500 mg of DHA and 500 mg of EPA per day. Some inferior quality brands are lacking in one or the other or sometimes both. (6)
The research-backed benefits of fish oil include:• Supports healthy brain function• Promotes positive mood and well-being• Supports memory and learning ability• Supports focus and attention• May help slow the progression of age-related memory loss• Protects nerve and brain cells from oxidative stress and damage• Is natural and safe for long-term use
Do you get enough omega 3’s? Learn more and take the test by clicking on the button below.
4. Type 2 Diabetes
Diabetes Type 2 has been associated with inflammation, and omega 3/6 imbalance causes inflammation that can be helped with omega-3-substitution.
There have been studies that Omega-3-supplementation can be helpful in Type 2 diabetes (3) as it can have a positive effect on the insulin-resistance that characterizes this type of diabetes.
The omega-3/6 index test can help to see if you need to supplement and if you are supplementing with the appropriate dosage.
5. Skin Health
Skin is the largest organ in the human body and is often the first visual indicator of an essential fatty acid deficiency.
EPA and DHA, the omega–3 essential fatty acids in fish oil, along with GLA, the essential fatty acid found in borage and evening primrose oils, are crucial nutrients for skin health and function. These essential fatty acids (EFAs) reside in the membranes that surround skin cells, where they regulate a large number of cellular processes that directly impact skin health.
Since skin has a relative fast cell turnover rate (about 28 days), it needs lots of cellular structural elements to stay supple and elastic. Among those are not only collage, Vitamin C, D, E, zinc and iron, but of course omega 3 (and -6) fatty acids.
A serious lack of those essential fatty acids or a marked imbalance can cause dry, brittle skin, hair and nails and even inflammatory changes like eczema/dermatitis.
The research-backed benefits of fish oil + GLA include:• Nourishes skin, hair, and nails• Protects against age–related damage• Hydrates skin by retaining natural moisture• Protects against free radicals• Stimulates production of healthy skin cells• Supports a clear and healthy complexion• Is natural and safe for long-term use
For this reason, if you have any skin issues, you want to know your omega-3-index and omega 6/3 ratio. and substitute accordingly.
6. Eye Health
Many people heard of the importance of Vitamin A (Carotenoids), Vitamins E, lutein and zeaxanthin for eye health. But the eyes need more.
Many people nowadays have dry eye disease that often can be helped by properly balacing omega 6/3 ratio.
As part of the brain, DHA is found at very high concentrations in the cell membranes of the retina; the retina conserves and recycles DHA even when omega-3 fatty acid intake is low. Animal studies indicate that DHA is required for the normal development and function of the retina.
Moreover, these studies suggest that there is a critical period during retinal development when inadequate DHA will result in permanent abnormalities in retinal function. Research indicates that DHA plays an important role in the regeneration of the visual pigment rhodopsin, which plays a critical role in the visual transduction system that converts light hitting the retina to visual images in the brain.
The research-backed benefits of fish oil include:• Promotes healthy eyes and vision• Supports healthy tissue moisture and tear production• Protects against age-related oxidative damage• Maintains fluid and flexible eye cells and tissues• Can help alleviate dryness and redness• Is natural and safe for long-term use
Another good reason to take the test and balance your omega3/6-fatty acids!
7. Pregnancy, Infanthood and Children
EPA and DHA—the omega-3 essential fatty acids in fish oil—are crucial throughout life, but especially during pregnancy, when a woman’s demand for DHA in particular increases substantially.
DHA comprises approximately 20% of the fatty acid in the brain’s cerebral cortex. That’s why DHA is among the most important nutrients for pregnant and lactating women.
The DHA consumed by expectant moms sets the foundation for her baby’s developing brain, eyes, and nervous system. DHA also provides mood and nerve support for new mothers in the weeks following her baby’s birth. Omega–3 fish oil is a safe, pure, and effective way to promote the health of both moms and babies, and is endorsed by the American Pregnancy Association.
Children really have the most to gain from these essential fats. From prenatal babies to adolescents, children rely heavily on EPA and DHA for visual, brain and immune system development, and for normal emotional and cognitive function.
Much of this has to do with the rapid growth of the brain in childhood. Essential fatty acids have been shown to positively impact children in a whole host of ways.
Unfortunately, recent research has also shown that only 22% of children get adequate amounts of these essential fatty acids. Along with a healthy diet that includes fish and fresh green leafy vegetables, supplementing with a premium fish oil product is the best way to ensure that families begin to reverse this trend.
- The research-backed benefits of fish oil include:
- Promotes the healthy development of the fetal brain, eyes, nervous system
- Promotes positive mood and well-being for mothers
- Supports healthy birth weight and gestational length
- Omega–3 consumption in pregnancy may reduce the risk of allergies in children
- Omega–3 consumption in pregnancy may reduce the risk of colds in infants
- Promotes attention and focus in infants and children
- Supports healthy immune system development
- Omega–3 consumption may support learning
8. Longevity (Getting Older Healthier)
All the benefits mentioned here contribute to fish oil supporting healthy aging and longevity.
Scientific Studies support this (12, 13)
Your omega-3 levels in the blood are a better predictor of long-term health than your cholesterol levels!
9. Back and Joint Pain
A large body of scientific evidence indicates that fish oil supports key compounds and internal repair systems that operate in response to physical stress. Studies show that EPA and DHA, the omega–3 essential fatty acids in fish oil, support the resolution of pain associated with physical stress to the back and joints.
The research-backed benefits of fish oil include:• Promotes back and joint health• Promotes joint mobility and flexibility• Supports internal repair systems that operate in response to physical stress• Is natural and safe for long-term use
10. Immune system
The ratio of omega–3 to omega–6 essential fatty acids that a person consumes directly impacts the health of their immune response. Similarly, the ratio of fatty acids within their cell membranes directly influences whether the immune response synthesizes beneficial or potentially harmful molecules. When the immune system is triggered—for example by injury, allergy, or infection—fatty acids are released from the cell membranes. These fatty acids are converted into molecules as part of the body’s natural healing response. A large body of scientific evidence indicates that fish oil helps to naturally regulate the immune response and support the internal repair systems that operate in response to stress and injury.
The research-backed benefits of fish oil include:• Promotes a healthy immune response• Supports internal repair systems that operate in response to stress and injury• Is natural and safe for long–term use
High–intensity exercise significantly increases the demand on the circulatory system to provide oxygen and nutrients to the muscles, lungs, and brain, and to remove metabolic waste like lactic acid. Omega–3 essential fatty acids from fish oil have been shown to support lung function, and to promote blood flow and oxygen delivery to active muscle by enhancing blood vessel function. They have also been shown to play an important part in recovery from physical stress. These effects combine to enhance endurance and promote joint flexibility, mobility, and comfort.
The research–backed benefits of fish oil include:• Enhances cardiovascular function and circulation• Promotes joint flexibility and mobility• Supports optimal fat metabolism and body composition• Enhances exercise performance, endurance, and recovery• Is natural and safe for long–term use
12. Food Sources of Healthy Omega-3 Fats
Many foods contain omega-3 fatty acids.
Click the green button on the right to download a list of foods and omega- content.
Download a List of Food Sources for Omega-3 by clicking on the button below.
13. Omega-3 Supplementation
Look For EPA and DHA Levels in your food and supplements:
Make sure to read the supplement facts to know how much EPA+DHA you are getting. A 1000 mg fish oil soft gel refers only to the size of the soft gel, not the levels of EPA+DHA. You can recognize a better quality fish oil supplement by adding the EPA and DHA content on the label. It should add up to more than 50% of the fish oil content.
Fish oil 1000 mg
DHA 450 mg
EPA 250 mg
You calculate: DHA+EPA=450+250=700 mg which is 70% of 1000 mg.
Fish oil supplements should be ideally harvested in a sustainable manner. They need to be tested for heavy metals and environmental toxin content. They should contain natural antioxidants like Vitamin E and be kept in a dark and cool environment to avoid getting rancid too soon.
A good fish oil supplement does not lead to a “fishy burp” or have a rancid smell.
What about plant-based Omega-3 supplements?
Most plant-based supplements only contain ALA, which is often not well converted to EPA and DHA (the fatty acids we need for all cells) in our body. The conversion rate is often below 1%.
The only plant-based source of EPA and DHA is so far marine Algae Oil.
Usual Omega-3 content of Supplements:
Dietary Supplements–Amount(mg) per 1,000 mg capsule or per teaspoon
|Standard Fish Oil Capsules||180||120||300|
|Fish Oil Concentrates (many varieties)||100-400||100-400||300-700|
|Cod Liver Oil (teaspoon)||300||500||800|
14. Do You Get Enough?
International experts recommend:
500 mg EPA+DHA
to avoid deficiency
1 g EPA+DHA
for proactive support
2-4 g EPA+DHA
for high-intensity support
Essential Fatty Acids (especially the omega 3-s and 6) are nutritional cornerstones of human health. They are deemed “essential” because we need them for proper health—much like certain vitamins and minerals—but cannot produce them on our own. We must therefore consume these fats through diet or supplementation.
Most people associate omega-3s with cardiovascular health, but their benefits go far beyond the heart. The two main omega-3s—eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA)—promote a healthy immune response that is behind the relief of many chronic conditions but that is too often inhibited by poor nutrition. Extensive research has documented the health benefits of EPA and DHA, which include not only a healthy heart, but brain and cognitive function, joint mobility, eye health, pregnancy and lactation, healthy skin and hair, and a normally functioning immune response.
Despite the great health benefits of omegas, individuals around the world suffer from omega–3 deficiency, a little–known problem to most people, but one that is counted as the 8th leading cause of preventable death in the US, among dietary, lifestyle, and metabolic risk factors. (11) Omega–3 deficiency stems in large part from the growing unavailability of foods rich in these nutrients—principally fish—and because of the increasing popularity of the Western diet worldwide. While most diets prior to the 20th century contained a relative balance of omega–3 and omega–6 rich foods, the typical Western diet today contains far more of the omega–6s. In fact, North Americans have the lowest intake of omega-3 essential fatty acids of any developed country—the typical American diet contains 14–25 times more omega–6s than omega-3s.
Click on the orange button below and take the plunge and the test! You won’t regret it!
1. Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Omega-3_fatty_acid
2. Oregon State university, Linus Pauling Center: https://lpi.oregonstate.edu/mic/other-nutrients/essential-fatty-acids
3. National Institute of Health (NIH): https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Omega3FattyAcids-HealthProfessional/, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3430014/
4. Dr. Daniel Amen: https://brainmd.com/blog/omega-3-fatty-acid-supplement-latest-research/, https://brainmd.com/blog/know-fatty-acids-omega-3-omega-6, https://brainmd.com/blog/omega-fatty-acids-proper-ratio-key/, https://www.amenclinics.com/blog/how-omega-3-fatty-acids-change-your-brain/
6. Canadian Family Physician: (Dry Eye): https://www.cfp.ca/content/64/11/826
7. Raffaele De Caterina, n-3 Fatty Acids in Cardiovascular Disease, New England Journal of Medicine 2011; 364: 2439–50
9. Danaei G, et al. The Preventable Causes of Death in the United States: Comparative Risk Assessment of Dietary, Lifestyle, and Metabolic Risk Factors. PLoS Med 2009;6(4)
10. Lai HT, de Oliveira Otto MC, et al. Serial circulating omega 3 polyunsaturated fatty acids and healthy ageing among older adults in the Cardiovascular Health Study: prospective cohort study [published correction appears in BMJ. 2018;363:k4445.]. BMJ. 2018;363:k4067. https://www.bmj.com/content/363/bmj.k4067.
11. Zhu Y, Ferrara A, Forman MR. Omega 3 polyunsaturated fatty acids and healthy ageing. BMJ. 2018;363:k4263. https://www.bmj.com/content/363/bmj.k4263.