The critical need to balance dietary omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids
BY STEVE BORN
We need two essential fatty acids (EFA) for life—the omega-6 fatty acids and omega-3 fatty acids. Our bodies cannot make either of them, so we must obtain these fatty acids from dietary sources. Omega-6’s are important because they produce specific molecules (prostaglandins and leukotrienes) that are, in appropriate amounts, necessary for proper immune system function. Omega-3’s also produce prostaglandins and leukotrienes; however, these are different types than omega-6’s produce, they’re less inflammatory and are associated with many health benefits.
While both are necessary in the human diet, the problem is that most people consume an excess of omega-6’s, while their omega 3 intake is woefully lacking. While research points to a 1:3 or 1:4 omega-3 to omega-6 ratio as ideal, most people’s diets show a 1:20 ratio or even higher. Dr. Artemis P Simopoulos explains:
In the past three decades, total fat and saturated fat intake as a percentage of total calories has continuously decreased in Western diets, while the intake of omega-6 fatty acid increased and the omega-3 fatty acid decreased, resulting in a significant increase in the omega-6/omega-3 ratio from 1:1 during evolution to 20:1 today or even higher. A balanced omega-6/omega-3 ratio is vital for health. 
Clearly, a 20:1 omega-6 to omega-3 ratio is very much out of balance. This imbalance causes excess inflammation and oxidation throughout the body, significantly disrupting optimal health and increasing the likelihood of chronic diseases, including obesity, diabetes, heart disease, cancer, and more. 
The primary culprit for the excess? Health-destroying amounts of omega-6 fatty acids. The increased use and consumption of industrially processed seed oils referred to as vegetable oils. An expert on the subject, Dr. Chris Knobbe, states that these industrially processed seed oils “drive the oxidation. They’re pro-oxidative, proinflammatory, and toxic, but of all of these, it is oxidation. That is by far the worst.”
Cardiovascular research scientist, Dr. James DiNicolantonio, agrees and refers to these omega-6 seed oils as “drivers of coronary heart disease.” He summarizes:
Omega-6 polyunsaturated fat linoleic acid consumption has dramatically increased in the western world, primarily vegetable oils. Numerous lines of evidence show that the omega-6 polyunsaturated fat linoleic acid promotes oxidative stress, oxidized LDL [the “bad” cholesterol], chronic low-grade inflammation, and atherosclerosis. Omega-6 is likely a primary dietary culprit for causing CHD (Coronary Heart Disease), especially when consumed as industrial seed oils, commonly referred to as vegetable oils. 
To reestablish the proper balance of omega-6's to omega-3's—helping to protect against serious health outcomes and return us to a much healthier state—we need to reduce or eliminate the consumption of the following oils:
- Canola oil
- Corn oil
- Cottonseed oil
- Grapeseed oil
- Peanut oil
- Rice bran oil
- Safflower oil
- Soy oil
- Sunflower oil
It’s important to remember that most-to-all of these highly processed seed oils are found not only in oil form but in processed/fast foods as well, so we also need to strive to eliminate them from our diet. As Dr. Catherine Shanahan states, "More than any other ingredient, vegetable oil is what puts the ‘junk’ in junk food.”
Healthier oil options include virgin olive oil, avocado oil, flaxseed oil, and the oils from certain types of fish (e.g., salmon, mackerel, and sardines). Regarding the latter, while consuming these types of fish two to three times a week is a sage strategy, it’s simply not possible for most of us. That’s where Hammer Nutrition’s EndurOmega comes in. Taking two soft gel capsules two to three times daily is a super-easy way to help “restore the balance” and provide you with numerous benefits for optimizing health.
Olive Oil – The Healthiest of Them All!
In our article on processed seed oils being a health hazard, we just touched on a couple of oils that are quite healthy, one of which is olive oil. Some impressive research, recently published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, clearly indicates olive oil is not just healthy, but has some remarkable benefits that may very well extend life. The results:
Consuming more than 7 grams (>1/2 tablespoon) of olive oil per day is associated with:
- Lower risk of cardiovascular disease mortality
- Cancer mortality
- Neurodegenerative disease mortality
- Respiratory disease mortality
The study also found that replacing about 10 grams/day of margarine, butter, mayonnaise and dairy fat with the equivalent amount of olive oil is associated with lower risk of mortality as well.
Using participants from the Nurses' Health Study and the Health Professionals Follow-up Study, researchers analyzed 60,582 women and 31,801 men who were free of cardiovascular disease and cancer at the study baseline in 1990. During 28 years of follow-up, diet was assessed by a questionnaire every four years.
After the 28-year follow-up, researchers compared those who rarely or never consumed olive oil, those in the highest consumption category had:
19% lower risk of cardiovascular mortality
17% lower risk of cancer mortality
29% lower risk of neurodegenerative mortality
18% lower risk of respiratory mortality.
The study also found substituting 10 grams/day of other fats, such as margarine, butter, mayonnaise and dairy fat, with olive oil was associated with 8-34% lower risk of total and cause-specific mortality. They found no significant associations when substituting olive oil for other vegetable oils.
Lead study author, Marta Guasch-Ferré, PhD, states, "Our findings support current dietary recommendations to increase the intake of olive oil. Clinicians should be counseling patients to replace certain fats, such as margarine and butter, with olive oil to improve their health.”
REFERENCES: Processed Seed Oils
REFERENCE: Olive Oil