The Omega Balance Explained
What are omega fats and why are they so important for health? This article is going to explain everything you need to know to about the different omega fats, their importance for health and why you should prioritise your own omega balance.
What are the different types of fats?
It is important to understand the different types of fats to understand why omega fats are so vital. All fats are made of a chain of carbon atoms, like a string of beads. When there are double bonds between carbon atoms, it makes the chain able to move or flex, like a hinge, so the more double bonds in the structure, the more flexible and able to adapt shape the fat is. Hydrogen atoms bond to the carbon atoms in different arrangements which differentiates the types of fats listed below.
Unsaturated fats have few hydrogen atoms bound to the carbon chain with plenty of double bonds, making these fats liquid, adaptable and flexible. Unsaturated fats are a vital and health component of our diet.
Saturated fats have many hydrogen atoms bound to the carbon chain and as a result are stiffer and less flexible. A small amount of saturated fats are required by the body so these should form only a small portion of our diet.
Hydrogenated fats are man made fats where chemical reactions are used to entirely change the normal structure of the fat. These are not required by the body and are not recommended as part of a health diet.
What are omega fats?
The omega fats are polyunsaturated fats meaning they have very few hydrogen atoms bound to their carbon chain and a healthy fat for the human body. They are also called “essential fats”, meaning that is essential we consume these in our diet as the body cannot create or make them.
Therefore, to the get the benefits of the omega fats that are going to be discussed later on in this article, it is important we eat the right types of food and consider using a high-grade omega supplement to ensure the body has what it requires for optimum health.
Omega-3 fats are the most smooth and flexible of the omega fats. They have more carbon atoms and more double bonds in their structure than other fats making them vital to the ever fluctuating demands of our cells and tissues as they can quickly adapt to support growth, function and repair.
Omega-6 fats are more sturdy and rigid than the omega-3 fats so provide more of a structural role in the body.
Why are the omega fats vital for health?
Omega fats are vital for health because they are part of a vital cellular structure throughout the body – the cell membrane.
Cell membranes surround every cell in the body and form the protective barrier that allows nutrients into the cell, waste out of the cell, protects the important cellular structures inside the cell and dictates the overall cellular health.
A healthy cell membrane is selectively permeable, that means it only lets in nutrients to the cell and efficiently removes waste and toxins from the cell. Omega-3 and Oomega-6 form the cell membrane and their differing flexibility and rigidity help a healthy membrane to do exactly that! Omega-3 is flexible allowing passage of nutrients in and waste out and omega-6 is more rigid and sturdy ensuring the cell membrane retains it structure and protects the structures inside. In the correct and balanced ratio, these two types of omega fats help to keep cells functioning healthily – and as cells make up every tissue and organ in the body – keep us healthy too.
The omega fats also have another role in the cell membrane and that is determining the inflammatory state of our cellular environment. Inflammation can either be acute, in response to an injury/illness and is short-lived, or chronic which is long standing and results from imbalances, metabolic and immune shifts in the body. Omega-3 fats are anti-inflammatory but omega-6 fats are pro-inflammatory so having the correct balance of these two fats in the cell membrane is vital for keeping a health anti-inflammatory state.
What is the omega balance?
So far, we have learnt that omega fats are a healthy component of our cell membranes and that we need both omega-3 and omega-6 fats. However, we have begun to discuss how an imbalance of them can affect the structure of the cell membrane and how it can lead to changing our inflammatory status.
The optimal balance, or ratio, of omega-6 to omega-3 is 3:1. This means for every 3 omega-6 molecules in the cell membrane, there should be 1 omega-3. Sadly, we know that the average ratio of omega balance is often far from this ideal. In Europe the ratios are nearer 10:1 and in the USA nearer to 25:1 with the excess omega-6 molecules leading to stiffer, less flexible cells unable to cope with the metabolic demands of the cell and increasing the amount of pro-inflammatory signals in the body.
Why are our ratios so high in omega-6? It is because omega-6 is far more abundant in westernised food. It is found in processed and convenience foods and in the common oils used for cooking and baking. Even the way fish and cattle are farmed and has changed and increased the amount of omega-6 in the fish and meat we eat that used to be more abundant in omega-3.
Why are high levels of omega-6 bad for health? We know that the right of amount of omega-6 is important for cellular health however too much omega-6 compared to omega-3 leads to:
- More rigid, less flexible cell membrane less efficient at allowing nutrients in and getting rid of waste/toxins
- A pro-inflammatory cellular state contributing to chronic low grade inflammation impacting many disease and immune processes
How to achieve an optimal omega balance?
Hopefully this article has made you realise the importance of having the right balance of omega-3 and omega-6 in your body. There are several ways you can work towards this optimal 3:1 balance:
- Consume more omega-3
Omega-3 Is more commonly found fish, especially salmon, mackerel, tuna and sardines, flaxseeds and chia seeds, walnuts and green leafy vegetables such as spinach.
- Eat less omega-6
Try to avoid or reduce your consumption of vegetable oils such as sunflower oil and corn oil and switch to healthier alternatives such as olive oil. Try and reduce the amount of processed and ready made foods you consume.
- Use a high-grade supplement
Many people already take a “cod-liver oil” or “fish oil” supplement that they believe is helping improve their omega balance. Many studies have shown that even when taking these type of high street supplements, omega balance is still higher than 3:1. This come down to the fact that omega fats oxidise quickly and it is important that the manufacturer of the supplement balances the fats to ensure that you get the full dose of the supplement. The Zinzino Balance Oil is carefully formulated to ensure that you receive the full dose of omega fats and in combination with the Balance Test can demonstrate to you an improvement in your omega balance within 120 days, with 95% of those taking the supplement achieving a 3:1 balance in this time.