What about Omega-3 and Omega-6 Fatty Acids
Omega-3 and Omega-6 are types of essential fatty acids - meaning we cannot make them on our own
and have to make them on our own from our diet.
Both are polysaturated fatty acids that differ from each other in their chemical structure.
In modern diets, there are few sources of omega-3 fatty acids, mainly the fat of coldwater fish such as salmon, sardines, herring, mackerel, black cod and bluefish.
There are two critical omega-3 fatty acids (eicosapentaenoic acid, or EPA, and docosahexaenoic acid,
or DHA) that the body needs.
Vegetarian sources, such as walnuts and flaxseeds, contain a precursor omega-3 (alpha-linolenic acid,
called ALA) that the body must convert to EPA and DHA.
EPA and DHA are the building blocks for hormones that control immune function, blood clotting and
cell growth as well as components of cell membranes.
By contrast, sources of omega-6 fatty acids are numerous in modern diets.
They are found in seeds and nuts, and the oils extracted from them.
Refined vegetable oils, such as soy oil, are used in most of the snack foods, cookies, crackers and sweets in the average diet as well as in fast food.
Soybean oil alone is now so ubiquitous in fast foods and processed foods that an astounding 20 per cent
of the calories in the average diet are estimated to come from this single source.
The body also constructs hormones from omega-6 fatty acids.
In general, hormones derived from the two classes of essential fatty acids have opposite effects.
Those from omega-6 fatty acids tend to increase inflammation (an important component of
the immune response), blood clotting and cell proliferation, while those from omega-3 fatty acids decrease those functions.
Both families of hormones must be in balance to maintain optimum health.
Many nutrition experts believe that humans once consumed omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids in roughly equal amounts.
But most North Americans and Europeans now get far too much of the omega-6 and not enough of the omega-3.
This dietary imbalance may explain the rise of such diseases as asthma, coronary heart disease many forms of cancer, autoimmunity and neurodegenerative diseases, all believed
to stem from inflammation in the body.
The imbalance between omega-3 and omega-6 acids may also contribute to obesity, depression, dyslexia,
hyperactivity and even a tendency toward violence.
Bringing the fats into proper proportion may actually relieve those conditions.
You can cut down on omega-6 levels by reducing consumption of processed and fast foods and polysaturated
vegetable oils (corn, sunflower, safflower, soy and cottonseed).
Use extra-virgin olive oil for cooking and on supplements, walnuts,
flax seeds and omega-3 fortified eggs.
Your body and mind will thank you.
* Readers are advised always to consult their doctor for specific information on personal health matters.
The naming of any product, therapy and views expressed on this column have been gathered from other sources and does not represent an endorsement by Cheena Canada Ltd.