WHAT ARE OMEGA-3 EFAs?
Omega-3 fatty acids are considered essential fatty acids. They are necessary for human health but your body can’ t make them, you have to obtain them through food. Omega-3 fatty acids can be found in fish such as salmon, tuna, and halibut, other seafood including algae and krill, a few plants, and nut oils. Also known as polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs), omega-3 fatty acids play a crucial role in brain function, as well as normal growth and development.
WHAT’S THE PROBLEM?
The problem is the ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids that we consume. According to the Center for Genetics, Nutrition, and Health, humans evolved on a diet containing a ratio of omega-6 to omega-3s of approximately 1:1 whereas the average American today’s diet is 16:1. We consume excessive amounts of omega-6 fatty acid which promotes pathogenesis of many diseases including cardiovascular disease, cancer, inflammatory & autoimmune diseases, wherease increasing omega-3 PUFAs creates suppressive effects.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids as an Alternative to NSAID Pain Medication
The use of NSAID medications is a well-established therapy for both acute and chronic neck and back pain; however extreme complications including gastric ulcers, bleeding, myocardial infarction and even deaths are associated with their use. An alternative treatment was found through the University’s Medical Department study conducted involving 250 patients who had been seen by a neurosurgeon and were found to have nonsurgical neck and back pain.
The patients were asked to take 1200 mg per day of omega-3s. After 75 days of taking the omega-3s, 59% had discontinued taking their prescription NSAID medication for pain. 60% said their overall pain had improved, 60% saw improvement in joint pain, & no one reported negative side effects. These results mirror other controlled studies that compared ibuprofen and omega-3 EFAs demonstrating the same effect in reducing pain.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids as a Preventative Measure
In studying the optimal ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids in the human diet, the overall conclusion is that a lower ratio (closest to 1:1) is most desirable in reducing the risk of many chronic diseases of high prevalence inAmerica. Some of their findings are as follows:
- In the secondary prevention of cardiovascular disease, a ratio of 4:1 was associated with a 70% decrease in total mortality
- A ratio of 2.5:1 reduced rectal cell proliferation in patients with colorectal cancer
- A lower omega-6 to omega-3 ratio in women with breast cancer was associated with decreased risk
- In patients with rheumatoid arthritis, a ratio of 3-1 suppressed inflammation
If you are interested increasing your ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids, there are a few options. The first is adjusting your diet. As it is hard to know the total amounts in each food though, a second alternative is to take nutritional supplements containing the omega-3 EFAs which are most commonly krill oil or fish oil. Talk to Dr. Beebe if you need help getting a hold of some!