Mastering the Omega-3/Omega-6 Balancing Act

Anthropologists and medical historians agree: Healthier people consume about equal amounts of Omega-3 and Omega-6 fats. This is true for all cultures, ethnic groups and geographies that have been studied. In industrial societies like ours, Omega 3s, which soothe and repair, tend to be low in peoples' diets while Omega 6s, which activate and inflame, are high.

It's not uncommon to find that Americans often consume 50-100 times more Omega 6 than Omega-3. This explains why our physiological repair mechanisms are deficient while inflammation runs rampant. Researchers have repeatedly confirmed that more EPA and DHA and less ALA and AA are associated with better outcomes, more repair and less chronic ill health. (Bellagio Report on Healthy Agriculture, Healthy Nutrition, Healthy People, Nutrients, 2013; 5(2): 411-423).

High intake of vegetable oils such as soy, safflower, sunflower, corn, sesame and groundnut oil, combined with low intake of Omega-3s (fish, flax, purslane, perilla oils, algae) yields low serum levels of Omega-3 and an undesirably high ratio of Omega-6 to Omega-3 fats.

We now know that Omega-6 excesses and Omega-3 deficits (though thresholds have never been officially defined) are strongly linked to many common chronic inflammatory conditions: cardiovascular diseases, cancers, and inflammatory and autoimmune diseases. Taken together, the most common causes of chronic ill health and premature death can be connected with this nutritional imbalance.
We are the product of our choices: what we eat and drink, think and do. Ninety two percent of lifetime health is epigenetic choice while 8% is genetic inheritance.

The graph below shows the increase in fractionated edible oils in the American diet. The blue line, representing isolated oils, has dramatically increased in the last 25 years, and this tracks closely with the rise of lifestyle-driven chronic illnesses that account for the million annual premature deaths, now over 40% of all annual demises.

Of the million early deaths, we estimate that half are due to the ravages of diabetes, a quarter to easily identified essential nutritional deficits, and an additional quarter toe nutritional deficits that amplify and potentiate psychosocial disorders ().

Healthier Outcomes by Choice

In our view, the healthiest diets are the Greek Mediterranean (Omega Diet: The Best of the Mediterranean Diets by Artemis P. Simopoulos), Japanese, Okinawan (The Okinawa Plan by Makato Suzuki and Bradley Wilcox), and other similar diets rich in seafood and sea vegetables. Eating lower on the food chain, and favoring whole organic, biodynamic or home-grown foods is our choice.

One of my family's healthier choices is our now five-year-old biodynamic food forest from which we often forage for food while enjoying the pollinators and birds, chipmunks and squirrels, along with the flowers, many edible, that bloom anew daily.

Even relatively small changes can have big longterm impact on health. Switching from soy, corn and other unhealthy vegetable oils to preferred oils like extra virgin olive and grape seed and, for higher temperature, organic peanut oil, is easy to do and quite impactful.
It's really quite simple: Eat and be whole!

Omega-3 Index: A Predictive Biomarker

The Omega-3 Index serves as an important –if underutilized--marker of cardiovascular, and cancer risk. Just a drop of blood is needed to determine red blood cell (RBC) fatty acid membrane composition, which reflects long-term EPA and DHA intake.

We routinely use the Omega-3 Index because it provides an evidence-based, individual measure of tissue Omega-3 to 6 fat balance.
The predictive goal value for the Omega 3 Index is >8%. An Omega-3 Index value of 8% or higher is associated with the least risk of cardiac disease and indicates that Omega 3 intake is probably sufficient. A value lower than 8% suggests a need for more Omega 3 fats in someone's diet.

Based on the National Health and Nutrition Survey (HANES III and IV), Omega 6 excess and Omega 3 deficit is common in a super majority of Americans. Odds are good that if you start using the Omega-3 Index in your practice, you'll find a lot of people who are well below that 8% threshold.

When Omega-3 Index values are below the goal value of >8%, we recommend increasing consumption of wild caught, cold and deep water fish like wild salmon, that are high in EPA/DHA. The USDA Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends 2 servings of fish per week with restrictions for pregnant women and infirm elders due to concerns about mercury or other toxic mineral.

We recommend that people guide their Omega-3 intake by using the Omega-3 Index which gives an objective and individualized picture of what is happening physiologically.

In addition to increasing intake of fish and other Omega-3 rich foods, most people will need a quality fish oil supplement. While highly healthy people can interconvert fats, less healthy people and those suffering from ill health do so poorly if at all. In these cases, it is unwise to rely exclusively on food for increasing the level of Omega-3s.

In my view, the best uptake is from supplements in softgels micellized with alkalinizing medium-chain triglyercides (MCT) from raw coconut oil.
My Omega 3 Index is >15% because of an intake of sustainably harvested fish oil that is distilled under nitrogen to concentrate the beneficial EPA and DHA while removing toxins including lead and mercury and hormone disrupters that are increased in fish living in waters now enriched with chemicals better avoided.

PERQUE EPA/DHA Guard™ provides 500 mg EPA and 650 mg DHA in each dose. Most people benefit from at least two and often four to eight per day of such full bioavailability micellized softgels depending on need and life style.

Predictive Biomarkers

The Omega-3 Index is one of eight qualifying tests that meet the criteria as Predictive Biomarkers we recommend (PERQUE.com/predictive-biomarkers). These tests have been independently validated on large populations and are functionally interdependent yet independent. They assess the status of immune, digestive, neurohormonal, and detoxification mechanisms in the body. These provide the basis for a comprehensive, personalized action plan recommendation for the individual.

Bottom line for finding fat balance: Eat whole, healthier fresher foods in harmony with your nature and activity level. Eat what you can digest, assimilate and eliminate without immune burden. Cultivate engaged non-attachment. Combined, these approaches enable people to function at a level much younger than their chronological ages.

Fortunately, we now have high sensitivity predictive biomarkers like the Omega-3 Index to guide personal health decisions. For more on the 8 Predictive Biomarkers or to watch a recent presentation by Dr. Jaffe, visit PERQUE.com/predictive-biomarkers. This approach helps add life to years and years to life by high value life styles and healthier choices.

READ MORE

Simopoulos AP The importance of the ratio of omega-6/omega-3 essential fatty acids. Biomed Pharmacother. 2002 Oct; 56(8): 365-379.
Harris WS, Von Schacky C. The Omega-3 Index: a new risk factor for death from coronary heart disease? Prev Med. 2004 Jul; 39(1): 212-220.
Jaffe R, Mani J. Predictive Biomarkers in Personalized Laboratory Diagnosis and Evidence Based Best Practices Outcome Monitoring, Townsend Letter for Doctors and Patients, Jan 2014.

END

Russell Jaffe received his MD and PhD from Boston University School of Medicine in 1972. He is a Senior Fellow of Health Studies Collegium (www.HealthStudiesCollegium.org) and founding chairman of the Scientific Committee of the American Holistic Medical Association. Dr. Jaffe developed the lymphocyte response assays (LRA) that enable physicians to rule in/out 491 common allergenic substances based on delayed hypersensitivity by functional LRA by ELISA/ACT. He is also founder of PERQUE, a practitioner-only nutraceuticals company (www.PERQUE.com).