Omega-6 Fatty Acids

Salmon Cuts

Omega-6 fatty acids are essential fats that we all need in our diet. Everyone's heard that we need to get more omega-3 through supplements or eating more fish, but no one has ever told us we need any other fatty acid supplement.

The reasons for this are because our modern diet is now inundated with omega-6 fatty acids that were not present in this concentration in the not so distant past. We need both of these fatty acids, but in a proper balance.

As stated in the organic grass-fed meats page, the proper ratio of omega-3 to omega-6 fatty acids should be 1:1 or maybe 1:2. The ratios in our modern diet can be more along the lines of 1:20 which is a very bad ratio tilted heavily towards omega-6's.

This is not good...clearly we are not dealing with the change very well when you consider the plethora of health problems plaguing our modern society.

This being said, just to keep things in perspective, I've not blaming all of our ills on just this one issue. There are others. What I am saying is that this shift in ratio in our modern diet represents one of the biggest changes in human diet in all of our history. It does play a significant role in the level of vitality, health and strength we are able to achieve.

Below, I'll outline some of the types of omega-6's and cover the basics of why they have both excellent health properties that are essential to health and what can happen if we consume too much and is out of balance with omega-3's.

Types of Omega-6 Fatty Acids

Although there are many types of omega-6's, we're going to focus on just a few of them: 

Linoleic acid (LA)

Found in vegetable oils, especially safflower and sunflower, LA is a strong inflammatory agent and we want to limit the intake of this one as much as we can.

This is why I always suggest eliminating vegetable oils from your diet and replacing them with extra virgin olive oil and/or coconut oil.

Gamma linolenic acid (GLA)

This one's not quite as bad. It's found in hemp oil, walnuts, canola oil, flax and chia seeds. It has some good properties such as anti-inflammatory effects which is important to note since omega-6 fatty acids tend to have pro-inflammatory properties.

Arachidonic acid (AA)

Found mostly in animal products, AA is critical for brain function and muscle repair.

What Happens When We Get Too Much Omega-6's?

When omega-6 fatty acids are overconsumed and out of an optimal balance with omega-3's, the effects can be quite devastating to health. When the negative health effects begin to become more prevalent as described below, it can be hard to identify the source of the health problem and no amount of exercise or diet plans seem to work. This leads to the belief that we're just "getting old" or tell ourselves that "I'm just large boned" because no other reason can be found.

Because our modern diet is weighted heavily towards omega-6's, it's not surprising that we can clearly see it's ill effects on the population at large in the U.S. Below, I will cover both the beneficial properties of omega-6's as well as the negative effects of too much out of balance with omega-3's.

You'll recognize the ailments of too much omega-6's below as common health problems plaguing our society and is commonly believed to be a symptom of age or a myriad of other given reasons. I believe that a simple change in diet and a re-establishing of an ideal 1:1 or 1:2 ratio balance of these two essential fatty acid types is all that is needed to heal and even reverse these ailments.

Omega-6 Fatty Acids Promote Inflammation

Good because:

Aids in swelling to aid in healing to an injury.

Bad because:

Too much can cause systemic inflammation resulting in diseases such as arthritis, autoimmune disorders and allergies.

Omega-6 Fatty Acids Promote Angiogenesis

Good because:

This is good if we need to build blood vessels to growing muscle or to supply blood to a cut to aid in healing.
 

Bad because:

It's bad if your body builds new blood vessels to feed cancer cells because of excess omega-6's.

Omega-6 Fatty Acids Promote Weight Gain

I'm kinda thinking that this one doesn't need any "good because" or "bad because" explanation...but omega-6's promoting weight gain actually has a pretty cool function and story behind it....

In a natural setting such as in a hunter-gatherer society, the foods collected throughout the year change along with the seasons. In spring and summer, the plant based foods gathered by the people are lush and green. The game animals that were hunted also foraged on these lush green plants which promotes high levels of omega-3's in the animal fats that are then consumed by the people who hunted them. The higher levels of omega-3's present in the foods sourced during the spring and summer seasons promoted anti-inflammation, weight loss and leaning out for that season.

As the season moves into autumn and winter, the vegetation changes to prepare for the coming cold winter season. As the vegetation changes in color and nutrition, the fat content of game animals who foraged on them also changed to be more heavily weighted towards omega-6 fatty acids that were consumed by the people hunting them. This pro-inflammatory fatty acid signals to the body to thicken up and store more fat for the coming winter and the potential scarcity of food supplies. 

Since our modern food supply is full of omega-6's year round, many people find it very difficult to lose weight regardless of the diet plan they may be on because our bodies are always then preparing for winter.

Conclusion

In summary, we need omega-6's. It's just that we get so much today that we need to balance our intake with omega-3's. By shifting from conventional meats to organic grass-fed meats and by eliminating vegetable oils, you will be well on your way to correcting this imbalance.

For those of you looking to lose weight in the most healthy way possible, right-sizing your fatty acid ratios will allow you to work with your body rather than against it.

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