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Omega 6 and 3 fats: Which to eat and which to avoid

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For decades, media experts have promoted a diet high in omega 6 fats found in corn, soybean, canola, and safflower to lower cholesterol and reduce the risk of heart disease. We now know excess omega 6 fatty acids is connected to type 2 diabetes, heart disease, obesity, psychiatric issues, and cancer.

Omega 3 fats, however, are linked with lowered inflammation, better brain function, and reduced risk of cardiovascular disease.

Our grandparents ate a much different ratio of  omega 6 to omega 3  fatty acids than we do; omega 3-rich wild and grass-fed meats were the norm, and traditional omega 3 fats such as butter and lard were always on hand.

Omega 6 fats promote chronic illness

Introducing processed seed, nut, and bean oils into our diet while reducing grass-fed and wild fats has resulted in Americans becoming deficient in essential omega 3 fats, while having way too many omega 6 fats on board.

In addition, these processed oils are commonly chemical-laden and rancid, carrying toxic free radicals that promote inflammation throughout the body.

Many studies show a connection between inflammation and chronic health issues. It’s common knowledge in the medical world that omega 6 oils encourage inflammation in the body. They also reduce the availability of anti-inflammatory omega-3 fats in your tissues, resulting in even more systemic inflammation.

Even more, they reduce conversion of plant-based omega 3 fats into essential, active forms of omega 3s called EPA and DHA”by about 40 percent!

Over consuming omega 6 fats and under consuming omega 3 fats significantly increases the risk of:

  • Heart disease
  • Obesity
  • Pre-diabetes
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Inflammatory bowel syndrome
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Asthma
  • Cancer
  • Autoimmunity

In addition, consuming too many omega 6 acids increases the likelihood of mental illness and suicide, due to the connection between inflammation and  mental health  issues.

Which fats should I eat?

While we do need some omega 6 fats in our diet, we need a higher ratio of omega 3 fats to keep inflammation in check. It’s easy to get plenty of omega 6 fats in the American diet, so our focus needs to be on getting enough omega 3 fats.

Fats that protect the brain and reduce inflammation include:

  • Extra-virgin, cold-pressed, organic coconut oil—which is anti-inflammatory and may help improve your cholesterol numbers. It also handles medium to medium-high cooking heat.
  • Unrefined, extra-virgin, cold-pressed olive oil.
  • Avocados and avocado oil.
  • Nuts such as walnuts, almonds, pecans, macadamia; avoid peanuts.
  • Grass-fed meats and butter, which have about 7 times the omega 3 fats that conventionally-raised beef has (which is near zero).
  • Fatty cold-water fish such as sardines, herring, salmon and mackerel, which are all rich in omega 3 fats.

With the epidemic of inflammation-based chronic health issues skyrocketing today, it’s important to reduce your risks for inflammation. Changing the fats you eat is one easy way to boost anti-inflammatory effects. If you have concerns or questions regarding your diet, or your level of inflammation, please contact my office.

Meet the Author

Dr. Matz DC

Dr. Boyle D.A.C.M., LAc., DiplOM. is the founder of the Holistic Wellness Center of the Carolinas where he is the Director of Functional Medicine. He holds a Diplomate in Oriental Medicine and is acupuncture physician and primary care physician in the state of Florida. His post-graduate focus has been in the fields of functional neurology, functional immunology, and functional endocrinology.

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