The human body is amazing because it can produce or synthesize most of the different fats it needs from your diet with two exceptions: linolenic (omega-3) and linoleic (omega-6) acids. These essential fatty acids are essential to everyday function and any deficiency can lead to serious health problems.
The one thing many health issues have in common is inflammation, according to Joseph C. Maroon M.D., Professor of Neurological Science at the University of Pittsburgh. A deficiency in essential fatty acids causes internal inflammation, which is the cause of many chronic conditions such as arthritis, depression, heart disease, joint pain, liver and kidney disease, decreased immune function and even dry skin.
Good Sources of Essential Fatty Acids
An honest appraisal of your daily diet may quickly show that our modern westernized diet falls well short of providing the essential fatty acids we need. According to the American Heart Association, we need to eat a 3.5 ounce serving of oily fish at least two times a week along with a balanced amount of seeds and nuts to provide those all-important omega-3s and omega-6s.
People with heart disease are advised to consume one gram of EPA and DHA essential fatty acids every day. These can best be sourced from oily fish, or from fish oil supplements.
Omega-3 vs Omega-6
Without a doubt, we need omega-3 and omega-6 essential fatty acids regularly in our diet, but we need them in the correct 1:1 ratio. Omega-3 is found mainly in a range of shellfish and oily fish such as salmon, mackerel, herring, anchovies, albacore tuna and sardines. It is also found in animal meat, flaxseed, walnuts, eggs and dairy products. Omega-6 comes in the form of linoleic acid from green leafy vegetables, seeds, grains and vegetable oils produced from corn, sunflower and soybean.
Our modern-day diets tend to lean heavily towards omega-6 fatty acids with a ratio of about 10:1. Health scientists now know that omega-6 fatty acids compete with omega-3s for use in the body. Having such an excess omega-6 can actually inhibit the availability of omega-3, so we are then unable to benefit from the intake of omega-3.
As the body cannot produce either of these essential fatty acids, we need to obtain them in balance, reducing omega-6 oil intake and increasing foods high in omega-3.
The best way to ensure that you reach the required amount of omega-3 essential fatty acids is by taking a daily fish oil supplement. As yet there is no official recommended daily value, but most sources agree that 1000 mg per day provides the required amount. Look on the label for the breakdown of ingredients to ensure you are getting the EPA and DHA you need to provide your body with these essential fatty acids which are the building blocks of good health.