By David Blyweiss, M.D., Advanced Natural Wellness
May 02, 2014
- The underlying cause of today’s biggest health threats
- Are you eating the right omega fatty acids?
- 5 ways to fight the inflammatory battle… and win!
When patients come into my office for their check-ups, they usually have pretty specific health concerns on their minds.
These folks want to know about their blood pressure, cholesterol, glucose levels and triglycerides. Others are more worried about joint pain, mood swings or memory problems.
But I don’t think I’ve ever had a patient ask me about their inflammation levels.
Low levels of chronic inflammation are like the plague these days. Inflammation is the underlying cause of almost all of today’s biggest health threats – heart disease, arthritis diabetes, Alzheimer’s, cancer and more.
And it’s not always unhealthy lifestyle choices that cause this problem. Sometimes my patients make seemingly healthy decisions that lead them astray.
One of these common mistakes may be waging an unhealthy battle inside your body right now.
Let me explain…
When you see a food that says it’s high in omega fatty acids, it’s easy to think it’s good for you. After all, both omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids are essential to your health.
But here’s the problem…
Most of us don’t get nearly enough omega-3 fatty acids in our diet. And we get far too many omega-6 fatty acids. These two forms of fatty acids fight against each other for space in your body. So, when you eat too many omega-6s, it displaces the healthy omega-3 fats.
Now, there’s a very big difference between these two fatty acids that most people would never suspect.
Omega-6s promote inflammation while omega-3s are anti-inflammatory.
In other words, eating too many omega-6s and not enough omega-3s places you in a constant state of low-level inflammation. This, of course, increases your risk of all sorts of chronic disease – from heart disease and cancer to arthritis and osteoporosis.
Back in the days of our ancestors, this wasn’t a problem. Early man ate these foods in proportion – approximately one for one.
By the 1930s, the ratio was about eight to one.
And today, we’re eating about 20 times more omega-6s than omega-3s.
I’ll be very clear here. This imbalance isn’t your fault. Much of the blame lies on our food sources and the food industry.
Omega-6 oils account for the majority of polyunsaturated fatty acids in our food supply. They’re found in vegetable oils, salad dressings, fried foods, margarines and many other foods. So we tend to really load up on them without even knowing it.
These inflammatory fatty acids have even invaded our meat supply. Historically meat, poultry and eggs have been great sources of omega-3s. But today, they’ve been altered considerably because of their grain-based diet. This reduces the omega-3 content of the meat and increases the omega-6.
Given our food supply, it probably won’t surprise you to learn some analysts say the average American has an omega-6 to omega-3 ratio of 20:1. Your ideal ratio should be just 2:1.
With the right ratio, you can gain the upper hand on inflammation. That means you’ll also be protecting your heart, brain, eyes, joints and a whole lot more.
What can you do to get closer to that ratio?
If you’re eager to begin taking advantage of the benefits of balancing out your omega-6 to omega-3 ratio, check out these tips to help get you started…
1. Watch out for vegetable oils. Most vegetable oils are full of omega-6 fatty acids. Some of the worst include corn oil, safflower oil, sunflower oil and sesame oil. I personally prefer using extra virgin olive oil… and, yes, it’s fine to cook with, too.
2. Buy grass-fed meats. Remember, most of today’s commercial livestock is grain-fed, which means you’re getting more and more omega-6 fatty acids from the meat you’re eating. Meat from grass-fed livestock has a more favorable omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acid ratio than grain-fed animals.
3. Take a tip from the Mediterranean. When it comes to eating, people who live in the Mediterranean region have the right idea. Their diet emphasizes foods like fish, vegetables and certain meats that are rich in omega-3 fatty acids but low in omega-6s. You can find out more about my recommended Mediterranean diet here.
4. Cut back on processed foods. Foods like cookies, breads, cakes, chips, crackers and pastries are loaded with omega-6 oils. In fact, you’ll find them in almost all snack foods.
5. Supplement with omega-3-rich fish oil. There are certain supplements I recommend for everyone, and fish oil is one of them. But don’t buy just any fish oil supplement. They aren’t all created equal. Look for one that contains oil from fresh, wild-caught, deep sea fish. And make sure it’s been molecularly distilled and tested for purity. It should include at least 300 mg. of EPA and 200 mg. of DHA.
Armed with these five tips you can fight the inflammatory battle going on inside your body… and win!
Kris-Etherton PM, et al. “Polyunsaturated fatty acids in the food chain in the United States.” Am J Clin Nutr. 2000 Jan;71(1 Suppl):179S-88S.