Omega-3 vs Omega-6

Omega-6 fatty acids, also considered essential, are found in foods such as vegetable oils like Sunflower oil, Safflower oil, Sesame oil, Palmolein oil and Corn oil, grains, processed foods, meat, milk, eggs. They support skin health, lower cholesterol, and help make our blood "sticky" so it is able to clot.

Balance of Omega-6/Omega-3 Fatty Acids is Important for Health

The ratio between omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids is important as the two fatty acids are metabolized by the same enzymes. An increase in the diet of one decrease metabolism of the other. The EFAs i.e. omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, should be in an optimal or best possible ratio in diet, which is important for normal growth and development and help fight many diseases including heart disease. The ideal ratio is 5-10:1 for optimal health benefits.

The imbalanced consumption of the two families of EFAs contributes to a range of diseases. Omega-3 fatty acids reduce inflammation (anti-inflammatory), whereas omega-6 fatty acids promote inflammation (pro-inflammatory). So, omega-6 fatty acids may counteract the potential benefits of omega-3 fatty acids on the heart. A ratio above 50 is harmful to health.

Compared with traditional diets, intake of PUFAs has clearly shifted toward higher amounts of omega-6 fatty acids. Most Western diets provide too many omega-6 EFAs and not enough omega-3 EFAs. The estimated ratio of omega-6: omega-3 fatty acids in the present Western diet is about 20:1. A high omega-6/omega-3 ratio, as is found in today’s Western diets, promotes the development of many diseases, including heart disease. Most Indians eat a diet of omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids in a ratio of 30-70:1. This trend is now evident even in the rural Indian population due to changes in diets and lifestyle. Asian Indians have a low intake of MUFA, n-3 PUFA and fiber, and high intake of fats, saturated fats, carbohydrates and trans-fatty acids (mostly related to the widespread use of Vanaspati, a hydrogenated oil). This dietary profile predisposes Indians to an increased risk of chronic noncommunicable diseases including obesity, diabetes mellitus, coronary heart disease, hypertension and stroke and some types of cancer.

These nutrient imbalances are associated with diabetes and high lipid levels in the blood (dyslipidemia) and subclinical inflammation which underlie the higher tendency of Asian Indians to develop type 2 diabetes mellitus and early-onset atherosclerosis.

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