Why Getting Your EFAs In Balance Is Important

Category: Health  

Essential Fatty Acids (EFAs) have caught a lot of attention over the past decade and for good reason. These fatty acids include Omega-3 and Omega-6 and have earned the title essential for their necessity in the body. The body requires EFAs for optimal health, but is unable to make these fatty acids on its own therefore they have to be taken in through the diet.

Types of Essential Fatty Acids:

While Omega-6 and Omega-3 are known as fatty acids there are others as well that deserve noting.

  • Omega-6 – include linoleic acid (LA)
  • Omega-3 – include eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and can be synthesized from α-linolenic acid (ALA).

Polyunsaturated Fatty Acid (PUFA) – This fatty acids contains more properties that make it more heart healthy than other fatty acids.

Benefits of Omega-6

Omega-6 fatty acids is required for cell membrane structure and for energy. Replacing saturated and trans fat in the diet with Omega's may help to reduce the risk of heart disease.*

  • Neurological / Brain Health*
  • Skin & Hair Growth*
  • Regulate Metabolism*
  • Bone Health*
  • Improve Reproductive System*

Balancing Omega 3 and Omega 6:

Research has shown an imbalance between these two EFA’s may produce inflammation when the individual consumes more Omega-6 than Omega-3. This is an easy imbalance to strike due to the modern Western diet. Convenience and processed foods are high in Omega-6 and are consumed at an alarming rate in the standard American diet.

This rate of pro-inflammatory Omega-6 fatty acids being consumed may primarily due to the use of vegetable oils to produce these foods. Currently, the ratio of Omega-6 to Omega-3 in the standard American diet is between 10:1 to 20:1 when the ideal ratio should be between 2:1 to 4:1 to help prevent inflammation and other health concerns.*

Why does balance matter when both of these fatty acids are essential? This is a classic case of too much of a good thing. Since Omega-6 is naturally pro-inflammatory and Omega-3 is naturally anti-inflammatory, there needs to be a balance between the two.

Omega-3 fatty acids are essential nutrients that are important in managing heart diseases.

Chronic Inflammation

What is the issue with inflammation? The body being in a chronic inflammatory state may cause many health issues and pain. For those that live with an autoimmune disease this is even more important to be aware of as they are already prone to inflammation due to an improper immune response.*

Omega-6 Foods that May Cause Inflammation

While most Omega-6 foods can lead to inflammation, this is not the case for all. While Omega-6 foods are pro-inflammatory, it is the imbalance between Omega-6 and Omega-3 that may cause the inflammation. If your desire is to shift this imbalance, there are certain foods you should consider cutting out.*

  • Mayonnaise and Salad Dressings
  • Some vegetable oils
  • Reduced Fat Potato Chips
  • Corn Chips
  • Fried Foods
  • Popcorn
  • Baked goods like brownies and cookies

Symptoms and Preventative Measures

If you believe you have an imbalance in these EFA's there are some physical signs to look for:

  • Mood Swings and Irritability*
  • Trouble Focusing / Attention Issues*
  • Joint Discomfort*
  • Fatigue and Poor Sleep Quality*
  • Dry Skin, Hair, and Poor Nail Health*

To help prevent inflammation and find a better balance between the two, you may consider making some changes. The Mediterranean Diet is extremely effective in helping reduce inflammation and is a great balance in EFAs. The unfortunate fact is that even eating a healthy diet may cause an imbalance due to the vegetable oil coating many health foods have in order to improving taste. To ensure you are not getting in hidden Omega-6 EFA follow some of these steps:

  • Limit Processed Foods
  • Use Olive, Coconut, or Avocado Oils Rather Than Vegetable.
  • Limit or Avoid Fried Foods

How Much Is Needed?

Omega-3:

Adult Males – Approximately 1.6 grams per day.

Adult Females – Approximately 1.1 grams per day.

Omega-6:

Adult Males – Approximately 14-16 grams per day (decreases with age)

Adult Females – Approximately 11-12 grams per day (decreases with age)

EPAs are mostly found in certain fish, nuts and seeds.  


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Bottom Line on EFA Balance

Are you experiencing inflammation or pain? Are you showing signs or symptoms of low omega-3 intake like dry skin or poor focus? You may need to take an inventory of your diet to determine if you are out of balance.

Both EFAs are needed for optimal health, but an imbalance can be harmful. Prevent having this issue by increasing your Omega-3 intake and lowering the Omega-6 foods you consume.