1) What are fatty acids?
Fatty acids: omega-3 and omega-6 are also known as “essential” fats. The human body needs them for many functions, from building healthy cells to maintaining brain and nerve function. Since our bodies can’t produce them the only source is through our food or supplementation. There is growing evidence that fatty acids help to lower the risk of heart disease, protect against type 2 diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease, and age-related brain decline. Omega-3s come primarily from fatty fish such as salmon, mackerel, and tuna, as well as from walnuts and flaxseed in lesser amounts. Omega-6 mostly comes from plant oils such as corn oil, soybean oil, and sunflower oil, as well as from nuts and seeds.
2) Why measure the fatty acids?
There is a lot of evidence pointing to the adverse effects of fatty acid deficiencies. This has led to increases in the supplementation of certain essential fatty acids and the avoidance of others, which may in fact be putting the fatty acids out of balance rather than improving it. The balance between the pro-inflammatory and anti-inflammatory eicosanoids is influenced by the balance of the fatty acids we both eat and supplement. Since inflammation has now been shown to be integral to so many disease processes, nutrients that counteract inflammation can have profound health benefits. It is important for patients to know if they are taking too few fatty acids to be effective or too many fatty acids, causing other unexpected health problems.
3) Why is the balance between Omega 3 and Omega 6 so important?
Different organs in the body require different amounts and different ratios of Omega-6 to Omega-3 to function properly. Most organs require a 4:1 ratio, but the brain and nervous system, for instance, run happily on a 1:1 ratio whereas the muscles need a 5.5:1 –7.5:1 ratio (depending on their physical condition) and, although not needing vast amounts overall, the skin needs a 1,000:1 ratio. Nearly all organs need more omega-6 than omega-3.
When the supply of either one is less than required, the body prioritises delivery to organs it considers most important first: the brain, heart, lungs and kidneys. This results in other organs receiving inadequate supplies, leading to various illnesses.
4) How can we measure the balance of fatty acids?
The Bloodspot™ Fatty Acid Profile measures key omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids and calculates the indicators to establish your optimal fatty acid balance. The “bad” oils that are found in processed foods called Trans fatty acids are also measured, as are the ratios, guiding you coherently to optimal fatty acid balance.