Dietary Omega-6 (n-6) Fatty Acids
There are important interactions between the omega-3s and the omega-6s in the human body, and particularly in the brain. If we look at the ratio of omega-3 to omega-6 in in our diet and compare it to our ancestors, we find that we consume a far higher proportion of omega-6 to omega-3 than they did. This has been accompanied by increased rates of many diseases - the so-called diseases of civilisation, which includes heart attacks, age related cognitive decline and dementia, as well as diseases in which internal inflammation afflicts the body's organs and tissues - for example rheumatoid arthritis and dle.
There is also evidence that this high omega-6 to omega-3 ratio may make us more liable to several psychiatric disorders, particularly depression, so much so that the American Psychiatric Association has recently recommended that all patients suffering from depression should be given omega-3 supplements in addition to their drug therapy.
The two key questions then are:
1. What is the desirable ratio of omega-3 to omega-6 in our diet?
2. How do we achieve this in the hubble, bubble, toil and struggle of everyday living?
I have taken the benchmark established by authors such as Yehuda and his colleagues in recommending a ratio of 1: 4 omega-3 to omega-6.
This ratio is now thought to be important.
The chart above is a scale drawing that illustrates the principles of the balance. You'll observe that the arms of the scales are unequal, to emphasize that the internal chemistry has a preference for omega-3s, making four to one the correct ratio.
The chart above illustrates the actuality of our diet.
Unfortunately, the typical UK and US diet contains a ratio of omega-3 to omega-6 of less than 1: 10 - and sometimes much less. Hibbeln went on to say that our need for omega-3s could be reduced to a tenth if we consumed fewer omega-6s.