Fish oil is rich in the omega-3 fatty acids, EPA and DHA. They are essential fatty acids and belong to a family of nutrients that can also be obtained from other marine sources such as algae, krill and calamari. EPA and DHA are polyunsaturated fats (good fats) as contrasted to saturated fats that increase the risk of heart disease. The body can manufacture only limited amounts of EPA and DHA therefore it is necessary to supplement your body's production with nutrients from your diet..
Omega-3 fatty acids have a number of potentially healthy effects such as reducing triglyceride levels, raising levels of HDL (good cholesterol), Possibly "thinning the blood", slowing the progression of atherosclerosis and decreasing inflammation in the body.
Omega-3 fatty acids need to be differentiated from omega-6 fatty acids. Omega-6 fatty acids are also essential fatty acids. They are found in almost all of the processed foods that we eat especially foods that have have had oils from sunflowers, corn, soybean and cottonseed. Omega-6 fatty acids are also essential for healthy body functioning, but the problem with the typical western diet is that the ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids is unhealthy.
Why is this a problem? The reason is that omega-3 fatty acids are anti-inflammatory. Omega-6 fatty acids are inflammatory. Historically before the onset of mass produced processed foods the omega-6 to omega-3 ratio that our ancestors lived with was about 4:1. Going back even further in time our ancestors who were hunter gatherers had a ratio of about 1:1. Even today the Inuits who eat a diet high in seafood have a ratio of 1:4 and the healthy mediterranean diet has a ratio of about 3:1.
Many of us who eat a typical American diet have a ratio of 16:1 or even higher. This imbalance between inflammatory and anti-inflammatory essential fatty acids is one of the reasons for the high incidence of heart disease, auto-immune disease and cancer in our western civilization. In subsequent blogs we will discuss the health benefits of omega-3 fatty acids and give our recommendations.