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  • Jacquie Harper

Omega 3 for Optimal Health

Polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) are essential nutrients (they must be obtained from food as the body cannot make them). They are required for normal physiological functions in our bodies and are a component of all cell membranes. The PUFAs are: linoleic acid (LA) - Omega 6 (O6) and alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) - Omega 3 (O3).

O3 and O6 perform different functions in the body and must be present in the correct ratio to ensure optimal health. This balance is important as O3s are anti-inflammatory and support brain health, whereas O6s support growth and development, but can become pro-inflammatory when in excess. Traditional diets had ratios of O6 2:1 O3, however the Western-style diet ratios look more like O6 16+:1 O3! The recommended ratio is approximately O6 4:1 O3.


Well-researched benefits* of O3 include:

  • Treating pain (rheumatoid and osteoarthritis, headaches, back pain, dysmenorrhea, peripheral neuropathy). Patients who suffer with chronic pain have been shown to have high levels of O6.

  • Lowering risk of cardiovascular disease.

  • Benefits to those who are pregnant - maternal intake (including breastfeeding) has shown positive effects on infant heath (birth weight, visual and cognitive development). Incorporating O3 into the baby’s first two years of life; a time of rapid development, continues these positive effects. Seafood particularly contains the minerals (iodine, iron, selenium, copper and zinc) – vital for brain development.

  • Anti-inflammatory properties – the biomarkers of inflammation (C-reactive protein, fibrinogen and various cytokines) may be reduced, along with disease severity.

* Increasing O3 in the diet is part of an integrative approach to health that includes reducing O6 load, along with eating a healthy, whole food diet, sleeping well and exercising.

We already know that our diets tend to contain too much O6. The main source in our modern diet is in oils, which are present in so many of the foods we regularly consume. Foods high in O6 are takeaways, packaged foods (cakes and biscuits), potato chips, muesli bars, bought cereals, nuts, seeds, poultry and grains.

O3 is more difficult to obtain, seafood being the exception. The best O3 food sources are fatty, cold-water fish and shellfish. Care should be taken to avoid mercury contamination, which accumulates in fish and seafood and has some profound effects on health. Rather than avoiding fish, choose the type and species to get the benefits of this rich source of O3, protein, minerals and vitamin D.

** Fish known to be high in mercury levels are the large, long-lived fish. Avoid King mackerel, Shark, Swordfish, Tilefish, Bluefin tuna, especially when pregnant, breastfeeding or with young children.

# Note: Other foods high in O6 need to be removed from the diet in order for these nutritious foods to improve your O6:O3 ratio, as along with good levels of O3, they are high in O6.

Omega-3 oil supplements

If you don’t like the taste of fish, are unable to purchase good sources, or are vegetarian or vegan, then supplementation may be right for you. Ensure you buy a good quality supplement recommended by your healthcare practitioner. Stay away from bargain bin varieties. Cheap supplements are more likely to contain mercury, oxidise (become damaged – will smell fishy) and can cause ‘fishy’ burps. Dark containers protect the content from light and may prolong shelf life. Did you know the O3 in fish actually comes from the plankton and algae that they eat!


If you would like to discus your dietary concerns book an appointment with me at livingcure.co.nz and together we will make a plan to get you feeling great.

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