In early 2012 I was diagnosed with cancer. Of course I was gobsmacked with this diagnosis. It was a very pivotal moment in my life – for a number of reasons. One thing this diagnosis did is it set me on a different course – one where I began to research and investigate all things health and wellness related. And of course that includes the importance of feeding our cells the right nutrition.
Know The Ratios
This pivotal moment also set me off on a personal quest of digging to find areas where my body was out of balance. And there were many. One of these was in the ratio of omega-6 to omega-3’s that I was getting in my diet. The ideal ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids is between 1:1 and 2:1, or one could argue maybe even as high as 3:1, but most diets in North America are high in omega-6 fatty acids and low in omega-3 fatty acids. According to an article from The Center for Genetics, Nutrition and Health (Evolutionary aspects of diet, the omega-6 to omega-3 ratio, and genetic variation: nutritional implications for chronic diseases, 2006) the Western diet ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 is 15:1 to 16.7:1. These ratios are way off, as compared to our parents’ generation. Our grandparents’ generation probably ate a 2:1 ratio of omega-6 and omega-3 fats. They ate a lot more fish, many took a daily dose of omega-3 rich cod liver oil and refined vegetable oils were a very small part of their diet.
The Bad – Omega-6
With today’s diet consisting of a much higher omega-6 fatty acid content, the amount of silent inflammation in our society has correspondingly increased. What’s so bad about omega-6 anyway? Omega-6 fats ultimately convert to arachidonic acid (AA) via a few intermediaries. AA is pro inflammatory and I know that my diet was skewed towards the omega-6’s, which is one of the factors that contributed to my inflammation. And we all know that silent inflammation compromises our health, contributing to, among other things, autoimmune disease (I have this), cardiovascular disease (fortunately I don’t have this), and cancer (I had this). There are many health-related articles about one of the causes of rogue inflammation being an imbalance between omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids in our diet. I remember this information years ago coming as a bit of a surprise to me as I was brought up believing, as many of us were, that vegetable oils were good for me. I used vegetable oil for many years as a base in my salad dressings.
The Good – Omega-3
Omega-3 is one of the most important nutrients for our bodies – with numerous articles referring to omega-3 benefits from mental and behavioral to prevention of disease. Omega-3 fats consist of EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid), and both play important roles in the body. They are acquired from both animal and plant sources but most health experts seem to agree on one point: that we get the most benefit of omega-3 from animal sources. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t eat plant-based sources of omega-3 and so chia seeds and hemp seeds for example, are great to include in the diet. But fish oil, seal oil and krill oil remain one of the best sources of omega-3 fats.
Understand Your Own Inflammation Markers
To call off the rogue soldiers in your inflammatory army that are derived from arachidonic acid (AA), you need to increase the good anti-inflammatory eicosanoids, which are derived from long-chain omega-3 fatty acids. To measure your inflammatory biomarkers you can have a fatty acid profile done which shows your levels of omega-3 to omega-6 as well as a highly reliable inflammatory biomarker in your body called the AA to EPA ratio. This information determines the levels of silent inflammation in your body. The higher your ratio (AA/EPA), the less well you are and the higher the chances that you are going to develop some type of chronic health disorder. In other words, this ratio gives you a glimpse into your future. This is why I believe it is one of the best tests in medicine because it reveals your state of wellness (or lack of it). I am a proponent of a test by Omega Quant called HS-Omega-3 Index Report, which measures your level of omega-3 fatty acids as well as your omega-6 to omega-3 ratio and your AA/EPA. When I did this test, I was happy to find out that my levels were good – of course I had changed my eating habits two years before I did this test and I ensure that I get optimum omega-3 fatty acids into my diet. You can order this test directly from Omega Quant – and you can also order from Renegade Health.