splashing wavesEssential fatty acids (EFAs) are so named because without them we would die. Your body cannot manufacture them so they must come from the food you eat.

Essential fatty acids fall into two main groups: omega-3 and omega-6. The 3 and 6 refer to the first carbon double bond position on the fatty acid chain. These minor differences in their molecular structure make the two EFA families act very differently in the body. While the metabolic products of omega-6 acids promote inflammation, blood clotting, and tumour growth, the omega-3 acids act entirely opposite.

We need both omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids but many scientists believe that a major reason for the high incidence of heart disease, hypertension, diabetes, obesity, premature aging, and some forms of cancer is the massive imbalance in our intake of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. What makes that even worse is that high intake of omega-6 can suppress omega-3 absorption.

It is estimated that 85% or more of people in the Western world are deficient in omega-3 fatty acids and most have an excess of the omega-6 fatty acids. Our ancestors evolved on a diet with a ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 of about 1:1. These two fats need to be balanced in the diet at a ratio like 1:1 or 2:1, rather than the 20:1 to 50:1 ratio seen in most Western diets. The way to redress the balance is to supplement your diet with omega-3 oils.


Omega-3 fats are found mainly in fatty fish, like salmon, trout, mackerel and albacore tuna, but also in flaxseed, canola and soybean oils, wheat germ, pumpkin seeds and walnuts. (Farmed fish may be low in omega 3 and high in omega 6 if they were fed grain products instead of marine products.)

The omega-3 in vegetable sources such as canola, soyabean and flax oils and are in the form of LNA, which must be converted to DHA and/or EPA. Whereas most of the omega-3 in fish oil is already in that form. DHA and EPA are essential to fighting and preventing physical and mental disease. Unfortunately, nearly all fish, whether farmed or naturally caught, are contaminated with mercury and PCBs and ideally should be avoided. (Mercury levels in fish generally range from 10 parts per billion to 1,000 parts per billion depending on the fish.) Be careful to use fish oil from a clean source.

Benefits of DHA and EPA:

Helps fight and prevent heart disease, cancer, depression, Alzheimer's disease, arthritis, diabetes, ulcers, hyperactivity and many other diseases

Increases your energy level and ability to concentrate

Provides greater resistance to common illnesses such as flu and cold

Helps pregnant women avoid premature births, low birth weight and other complications

Fish oil supplementation lowers blood concentrations of vitamin E, so it is a good idea to take extra vitamin E when adding fish oils to your diet.

If you already have significant sun exposure then you should not take cod liver oil as you will run the risk of overdosing on vitamin D.


Omega-6 fatty acids are abundant in our diet: in corn oil, sunflower oil, soybean oil, vegetable oils, margarines and grain-fed animals and it is certainly not necessary to supplement them. In fact, try to avoid these foods in your diet. Replace them with a high quality extra virgin olive oil, coconut oil, avocados, and grass-fed organic butter and meat.

However, there are certain conditions that respond well to supplementation of GLA, an omega-6 fatty acid, like PMS. Sources of GLA are Evening Primrose oil and Borage oil.


Omega-9 fatty acids rarely needs to be supplemented as nearly all vegetable oils have a significant amount of omega-9. It is also found in avocados, Macadamia nuts, apricot seeds, almonds and olive oil.
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