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HEALTH & NUTRITION

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Yours Essentially: Omega-3 & Omega-6

There are two forms of essential fats: omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. Their balance is vital for optimal health and healthy longevity.

For many of us who have been working hard to go "fat-free" during the last few years, it would be surprising to know that we are slowly learning that fat is not our foe.

Modern science demonstrates that the true effect of eating certain types of fats is good, and not as harmful as may be the popular opinion. This holds true for omega-3 fats. These fats are evidenced to be an essential part of a healthy diet, and just as important in preventing sickness and disease — especially circulatory disorders.

The drive against fat has had a downbeat social impact, thanks to some well-orchestrated government and media blitz on the subject. Take, for instance, the total amount of fat in people's diets which decreased from 41 per cent in the early 1960s to 34 per cent at the beginning of this century, in the US alone. However, with the downward trend, it’s ironical that health actually deteriorated. In fact, Americans, like many others worldwide, are today much fatter than ever before — what with obesity reaching epidemic proportions in both adults and kids.

You get the idea — if yes, the big fat thing, you’ll realise, has been quite simply misinterpreted without taking into account the quality of fats we eat.


Fat Can Be Beneficial

Yes, fats can be good for you. It needs to be emphasised that fats play many important roles in the body. They are, indeed, the basis of key compounds such as hormones.

Research has shown that eating fat can promote weight loss in a calorie-controlled environment, such as ours. Put simply, it means that eating a higher percentage of fat is healthy as long as you're not eating too many calories on the whole.

Researchers from the Harvard School of Public Health, US, have shown that the total amount of fat in the diet does not raise the threat of many types of cancers and heart disease, so long as your weight and total calories are right.

Needless to say, their findings imply that the type of fats you actually eat may play a more significant role in the development of heart disease, diabetes, and certain cancers.


What Is Omega-3?


Omega-3 fat is a polyunsaturated fat found in both animal and plant sources. It conforms to the summary of a healthy fat.

Fatty oils are the building blocks of fat in the diet. There are three types of fatty oils —saturated, polyunsaturated and monounsaturated. They vary in their basic chemical structure.

Polyunsaturated fats are healthier than saturated fats, but like all fats they are high in calories. They should, therefore, be consumed in moderation.

Omega-3 fats are evidenced to be essential — we have to simply eat them because our body cannot produce them on its own.
What they do is help drive the “engines” of normal brain, nervous system development and function, immune tasks, blood flow, heart regularity, and healthy skin.

The most active omega-3 fatty acids are known as EPA [eicosapentaenoic acid] and DHA [docosahexaenoic acid].

The two can be directly obtained from marine animals and algae. There is also another vital but somewhat less active omega-3 fatty acid. This is called alpha-linolenic acid [ALA]. This is found in flaxseed, canola oil, and walnuts.


Benefits Of Omega-3

Omega-3 fats from fish and plant sources can help prevent heart attack, sudden cardiac death, and certain types of stroke by decreasing blood clots, inconsistent heart rhythm, inflammation and triglyceride levels, while raising HDL, or "good" cholesterol levels. Researchers are keyed up about its anti-inflammatory properties too. Omega-3 fats, they suggest, hold the prospect as an effective line of treatment for cancer and auto-immune disorders, such as arthritis.

You could derive all your omega-3 fats from food sources. How? By eating 3-4 ounce of omega-3-rich fish, two-three times a week. This is adequate and also harmless.

What’s more, omega-3-rich fish have been shown to have low or negligible mercury and other heavy metal content, or toxicity.

Another option is eating ground flax seeds, especially if you are a vegetarian — although this may not be a realistic option for some people.

If this is the case, it would make sense for us to consider taking a fish oil supplement.

The ideal supplemental intake is 500-2,000 mg of EPA/DHA per day.

For maximum absorption, it is best to take the fish oil with a meal, along with a daily vitamin E pill, or capsule [200-400 mg].


The Omega Equation

Our body, on the whole, needs both omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids to do well.

Omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids are polyunsaturated fatty acids. They are considered “essential” — Essential Fatty Acids [EFA] — because, they cannot be made in the body, as already cited. They need to be, therefore, obtained from food.

But, the fact remains — most of us consume far more omega-6 fatty acids than omega-3 fatty acids.

This imbalance contributes to long-term illness — heart disease, cancer, asthma, arthritis, and depression.

Isn’t it reason enough for you to derive their good effects — smartly?!

Uses

  • Omega-3 fatty oils reduce blood clotting. This helps to lower our risk of coronary heart disease and heart attack.
  • Omega-6 fatty oils lower blood cholesterol levels when substituted for saturated fatty oils in the diet, provided we consume the two fatty oils in appropriate amounts.

And, also by —

  • Avoiding excessive oily food.
  • Avoiding dietary carelessness, or indiscretion.
  • Avoiding junk- or fast-food.
  • Not neglecting the intake of wholesome, well-balanced food in your daily diet plan.
People in the developed world, for instance, have an omega-6 to omega-3 ratio in the range of 10:1. In some cases, 20:1. This isn’t good news. But, if you still haven’t thought about the dangers, it is time you restored balance to your omega diet.

So, what are you waiting for? Speak to your doctor, or therapist, before embarking on a new dietary omega supplement plan.

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Health and Wellbeing Article:Health and Nutrition-Essential fats: omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids