Omega-Fats: The Good, The Bad, and the Balance

Fat is an essential ingredient that made us human.  It is the dominant feature of our brains.  It is required for electrical insulation of nerves and for nerve synapses.  Essential fatty acid actions include maintenance of cell membrane fluidity and stability, development and function of brain and nerve tissue, oxygen transfer and energy production, immune function, and conversion of compounds involved in all body functions, including local hormones governing inflammatory responses.

According to the Surgeon General excesses or imbalances in fats are involved in 70% or more of all U.S. deaths.  High on the list are deaths from cardiovascular disease, cancer, diabetes and lung disease.  Two essential fatty acids in our diets can be linked to much of this.  Omega-6 is found in most plant oils such as corn, safflower, sunflower, seeds, and soybeans.  Sources of Omega-3 include oils from cold water marine animals, flax oil, canola oil and walnuts. 

Omega-6 and omega-3 are metabolized to substances called eicosanoids, such as prostaglandins, thromboxanes, and leukotrienes.  The differences lie in the nature of eicosanoids produced by each.  Significantly, most chronic diseases stem from an imbalance, not a deficiency, of the eicosanoids produced by these two essential fatty acids.  Humans evolved consuming a nearly equal ratio of omega-6 to omega-3.  The U.S. estimated ratio today is greater than 20:1.

Consumption of omega-3 fatty acids is inversely associated with the incidence of many chronic diseases by inhibiting coagulation, promoting vasodilation, reducing inflammation and modifying lipid concentrations.  Low intake of omega-3 has been associated with cardiovascular disease, stroke, cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, depression, rheumatoid arthritis, and autoimmune conditions. 

Processes thought to inhibit metabolism of essential fatty acids include deficiency of magnesium, zinc and vitamin B6; intake of alcohol and trans-fatty acids; high cholesterol levels; viral infections and aging.  NSAID drugs, such as ibuprofen, can inhibit the production of “bad” eicosanoids but they have significant side effects.  The only things that can safely give you the appropriate balance of eicosanoids are food and omega-3 nutritional supplementation. 

An enlightened preventive-aging strategy includes nutrition and supplementation to obtain increased levels of omega-3.  EPA and DHA are complementary omega-3 fatty acids, best supplied together.  Fish oils are the optimal means of enhancing EPA and DHA levels.

Blood tests can help determine your optimum requirement, but a daily intake of at least 1.6 grams of EPA plus DHA can provide significant protection for most adults.  Consult your physician regarding your risks for consuming high doses, including excessive bleeding, increased LDL cholesterol, effects on immune function and diabetes. 

Fish oil supplements should be as pure as possible, avoiding toxins such as PCBs, DDT, mercury, and lead.  A good resource to compare purity and the accuracy of labeled doses can be found at  Fish oil supplements should be kept away from heat and light, and contain vitamin E to prevent oxidation. 

The diminished functioning and diseases of aging are far more related to a lifetime of unhealthy choices than to the ticking of a clock.  While you cannot go back and make a new start you can start today to make a new ending.

Cozy green couch


Beauty begins here at Le Papillon. We offer a range of treatments to help you feel comfortable and confident, both inside and out. Get in touch to learn more about our office and meet Dr. Decker. You can contact us by using the form below or calling 208-425-2478 (BHRT).