The EPA – DHA Ratio
Considering that on any given day, about 60% of the solid weight of your brain is fat – giving your brain plenty of healthy fat is kind of a (excuse the pun) no brainer.
Your brain loves healthy fat and here’s why: fat plays an important structural role in your brain cell membranes as well as a vital role in how your cells function.
For example, the omega-3 essential fatty acid docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) makes up a full quarter of all brain fat, and it’s the brain’s favorite fat for building membranes! Another omega-3 essential fatty acid called eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) helps support mood and emotional balance.
In fact, in a new research paper by Daniel Amen, MD and associates, researchers found that for patients with high omega-3 levels, blood flow in specific areas of the brain is increased. This indicates an association between higher Omega-3 index scores and overall better brain and cognitive health.
Your brain NEEDS fat – just the right kind of fat.
What Are Fatty Acids?
Fatty acids are the building blocks of the fat in your body and in the food you eat. They have a variety of roles in the body. In addition to being the primary component of stored fat and serving as important building blocks of cell membranes, they also regulate inflammatory processes.
Your body can synthesize most of the fats it needs from the diet. However, some necessary fatty acids cannot be synthesized in the body and must be obtained from food – these are called essential fatty acids.
Only two fatty acids are known to be essential for humans: alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), the parent fatty acid of the omega-3 series, and linoleic acid (LA), the parent fatty acid of the omega-6 series. Having optimal omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids lead to many healthy benefits.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
The family of omega-3 fatty acids is comprised of at least 11 different types with complicated names like hexadecatrienoic acid (HTA), stearidonic acid (SDA), and eicosatrienoic acid (ETE). However, the three primary ones involved in human physiology are ALA, DHA, and EPA.
ALA is mostly found in plants, while EPA and DHA are mostly found in animal foods like fatty fish. ALA, the most common omega-3 fat, is not biologically active in the body. It needs to be converted into EPA and/or DHA to become active, but this conversion process is VERY inefficient in humans.
Research has found that omega-3 fatty acids are essential for optimal brain and body health. For example, according to researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health, having low levels of omega-3 fatty acids is one of the leading preventable causes of death.
Deficiencies in these vital fatty acids have been shown to be associated with age-related cognitive decline, psychological disturbances, mood swings, and neuropathy (tingling in
hands and feet). Similarly, these critical fatty acids are necessary for optimal immune response and supporting cardiovascular health, joint health, skin quality, vision, and wound healing.
Omega-6 Fatty Acids
Although omega-6 fatty acids are necessary, they can be harmful when you eat them in excess, so they’re both good and bad for your health. Omega-6 fatty acids are found in most vegetable oils (soybean, sunflower, safflower, corn, and canola), as well as in many fried foods, cereals, and whole-grain breads.
Some of the benefits of omega-6 fatty acids are that they contribute to muscle health, support bone health, help reduce nerve pain, and act as a transmitter of nerve impulses. However, these health benefits are only realized when omega-6 fatty acids are eaten in moderation.
Why You Need Both Omega-3 and Omega-6 Fatty Acids
Appropriate ratios are key. Eating too much of omega-6 fatty acids is a problem because they cancel out the benefits of omega-3 fatty acids when the ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 is too high. The optimal ratio is 2 to 1 (omega-6 to omega-3), and not higher than 3 to 1.
However, most people who eat the standard American diet, which contains high levels of omega-6-rich vegetable oils, have an appalling ratio of 20-50 to 1!
Think of omega-6 as an accelerator—it hastens the creation of inflammation. Omega-3 is like the brake—it decreases inflammation. You need to be able to create inflammation, sometimes, in the right amounts and at the right times, such as when you are hurt or sick.
However, if it goes too far and inflammation becomes chronic, it’s like having a slow-burning fire in your body that never goes out. It begins damaging the immune system, arteries, nerve cells, and organs.
The best way to balance the ratio is to eat fewer foods that contain omega-6 fatty acids and more that contain omega-3 fatty acids, such as salmon, tuna, and seaweed.
Unfortunately, even if you are eating a diet rich in foods containing omega-3 fatty acids, you are likely still not getting sufficient amounts of these crucial fatty acids that your body needs for optimal health (including creating an optimal ratio with the amount of omega-6 fatty acids you are consuming), so it will be important to supplement your diet.
BrainMD Omega-3 Power provides highly purified omega-3 fatty acids at optimal dose levels from the most advanced production and detoxification.
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