Chronic disease is on the rise. Right now, 133 million Americans – nearly half the population – have at least one chronic illness such as diabetes or heart disease. With so much illness prevalent – and with the aging of the population overall – it’s no wonder many individuals are worried about healthy aging. But, could consuming the proper amount of omega 3 fatty acids be part of the solution?
Research shows most Americans are not consuming enough omega 3 fatty acids in their diets. Turns out this is hugely problematic, and not just because people aren’t getting enough of these healthy nutrients. People also aren’t consuming the right ratio of fatty acids – which is believed to be a major driver of age-related health problems.
Adding more omega 3 fatty acids to the diet holds the key to better health, research says
Omega 3 fatty acids, including EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid), are healthy nutrients found abundantly in fatty fish. Another kind of fatty acids is called omega 6 fatty acids. These are primarily found in foods containing sunflower, cottonseed, soybean, and corn oils – in other words, processed foods.
This is exactly why the modern diet (which is heavy with processed foods) causes humans to consume way more omega 6 fatty acids and not enough omega 3 fatty acids. In ancient history, our ancestors’ diet included a more balanced omega 6 to omega 3 ratio of about 4 to 1. Today’s typical human has a ratio of 20 to 1!
Why is this extreme ratio so bad for health and believed to be driving age-related diseases?
Well, the most common type of omega 6 fatty acid (called linoleic acid) gets transformed in the body into a substance that promotes inflammation and blood vessel constriction. While this isn’t necessarily “bad,” it is bad when so much omega 6 is being consumed that these inflammatory and blood vessel changes become chronic and widespread, which we see in things like heart disease.
Meanwhile, omega 3 fatty acids are powerful anti-inflammatory nutrients. So by taking in too much of one and not enough of the other, we’re wreaking pure havoc on our health!
This is why supplementing with omega 3 fatty acids protects against and helps manage so many disorders – cardiovascular, neurological, dermatological, psychiatric, and more. Depression and anxiety, heart disease, cancer, fetal development, ADHD, autoimmune diseases, Alzheimer’s disease, and other ailments have ALL been shown to benefit from these tiny omega 3’s.
Discover the “right amount” of omega 3 + some great natural sources
Currently, there’s no one recommended dosage for omega 3 fatty acids. According to the National Institute of Health (NIH), adult women and men should consume between 1.1 and 1.6 grams of omega 3 fatty acids per day.
However, these recommendations only refer to alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), since ALA is technically the only “essential” fatty acid, meaning the human body can’t make it.
But the NIH acknowledges that even though the body can convert ALA into EPA and DHA, it’s only able to produce very small amounts. And, by the NIH’s own account, we’re not consuming enough ALA to begin with!
This is why many scientists and health organizations recommend consuming more than that, especially more DHA and EPA. And many studies safely show the health benefits of taking anywhere from 1,000 to 4,000 mg of DHA plus EPA daily.
You can increase your DHA and EPA intake by eating fatty fish (like sardines, anchovies, and salmon) at least twice per week, adding a high quality omega 3 fatty acid supplements to your routine, and snacking on a few other natural sources of omega 3 fatty acids including chia seeds, flaxseeds, and walnuts.
Just remember: it’s not only about adding MORE omega 3’s to your diet. It’s also about eliminating excessive omega 6’s – so avoid those processed foods containing substances like soybean and corn oil.
Sources for this article include:
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