Have you ever wondered why there is so much interest in Omega 3? Is it just another nutrient like Protein or Vitamin C? What does it do and what’s the best way to get Omega 3 for your body? Omega 3 is a polyunsaturated fatty acid or PUFA that occurs naturally as an oil in some grasses, seeds and aquatic plants. In 1981 it was realised that Omega 3 and Omega 6 cannot be made by human bodies so just like Vitamin C, were given the official designation of being “Essential” meaning:
- you can’t survive without them
- your body can’t make them
- you must obtain them from your diet
At the same time it was discovered that these Omega Oils are easily damaged by heat, air and light and that if you eat damaged oils they not only fail to correct a deficiency, they act as poisons making things even worse. The bright lights in supermarkets speed up the oxidation of these oils causing them to give off an upleasant smell and taste. So food manufacturers routinely use heat and chemicals to remove Omega oils from foods to extend shelf life. Cooked or processed foods are not a good way to get your essentials. According to healthy fats pioneer and expert on Omega oils, Dr. Udo Erasmus: “more health problems come from eating bad fats and bad oils than any other part of nutrition”
What Omega Oils Do
For starters, Omega 3 and 6 make up a core component of every cell in your body - the cell membrane. Ignoring water content, 60% of your brain is made of Omega 3 and Omega 6 (30% of each). So most of your brain is made of Omega 3 and 6. Secondly, the body is constantly renewing itself, for example your skin cells are completely replaced over a period of 15-30 days. So your body is constantly needing a fresh ‘daily’ supply of Omega Oils to rebuild all the cells that get replaced every day. Additionally they both play critical roles in:
- energy metabolism
- protein metabolism
- concentration and learning
- immune function
- skin health
So while deficiency of Vitamin C can cause connective tissue problems and deficiency in Vitamin D can cause bone problems, deficiency in Omega 3 and 6 cause problems in every part of your body. Connective tissues, bones, eyes, hair, cardiovascular, brain, muscles, reproductive system, digestive system - everything can suffer if you are not eating enough of these oils. The flip side of this is that people can notice widespread improvements in their health when they do start taking in enough of them.
2. Is There An Ideal Ratio Of Omega 3 To Omega 6?
If you have been researching Omega 3 (Alpha Linolenic Acid or LNA) and Omega 6 (Linoleic Acid or LA) you may have heard that the World Health Organisation recommends a ratio of LNA to LA of 1:4 or more simply put that the ratio of LA / LNA is 4 - both of which suggest that you should eat 4 times as much Omega 6 as Omega 3. If you actually read the World Health Organisation report, that is not what it says. It states “there is no compelling scientific rationale for the recommendation of a specific ratio of Omega 6 to Omega 3” It goes on to recommend that intakes should fall within a certain range to be optimal for human health. What is this range? Their recommendations are that 0.5 - 2% of your calories should come from Omega 3 with intakes closer to 2% corresponding to a ‘healthy diet’. They recommend 3 - 9% of your calories should come from Omega 6 with intakes in the mid to higher part of that range corresponding to a ‘healthy diet’. This gives a range of LA/LNA from about 3 to 5.
As you can see, Hemp Seeds and Walnuts are the only known food sources that on their own provide Omega 3 and 6 within the recommended range.
3. Is Omega 3 More Important Than Omega 6?
Dr. Udo Erasmus recommends a lower LA/LNA ratio from 0.5 to 1 and states that if you go any lower than 0.5 (ie. more than twice as much Omega 3 as Omega 6) you will create an Omega 6 deficiency. So perhaps the range should be from 1 to 5 times as much Omega 6 as Omega 3. The evidence thus far suggests that Omega 6 is at least as important as Omega 3 and possibly even more important. So why all the fuss over Omega 3 with a lot of marketing pushing us towards focussing on Omega 3 and even avoiding Omega 6? The reason: if what you sell contains only Omega 3 or huge amounts of Omega 3 with very little Omega 6, you’ll get more sales if you make Omega 3 the hero while making Omega 6 the enemy. This has been a tactic developed and very effectively deployed by the Fish Oil industry but also taken up by some selling Flax, Chia and the new one Sacha Inchi (Incan Peanuts) all of which fall outside the recommended LA/LNA range but are enjoying a nice ride on the Fish Oil fuelled “Omega 3” wave.
Don’t We Already Get Too Much Omega 6?
True, the modern Western diet is reported to have a LA/LNA ratio closer to 100 (100 times as much Omega 6 as Omega 3) however keep in mind that this huge imbalance is not due to people eating too much healthy, undamaged Omega 6, it’s from a diet full of toxic Omega 6 that has been damaged by heat, chemicals, air and light. For example, Margarine is synthetic Omega 6 and whenever you see “vegetable oil” on a food label - that’s heat treated Omega 6. Popping a few Omega 3 capsules thinking it will bring the ratio back into balance is false logic and not a substitute for cleaning up a toxic diet. Those people eating a modern diet are actually deficient in both Omega 3 and 6. A better approach would be to stop eating so much fried, processed food and increase fruit and vegetable intake while introducing a clean, balanced, undamaged source of both Omega 3 and 6 - like Hemp.
4. Why Hemp Is The Best Source Of Omega 3 and 6
For a long term healthy diet, Hemp Seeds and Oil are superior to other sources of Omegas. Hemp Seeds:
- Contain more Omega 3 and 6 than other sources.
- Provide GLA (Gamma Linolenic Acid) which isn’t found in Fish, Flax, Soy, Chia or Sacha Inchi.
- Are more sustainable and obtainable than other sources.
- Are easier to eat - taste good and don't require soaking, roasting or crushing to be usable.
- Easily satisfy dietary Omega oil needs without risk of causing deficiency. For the average adult consuming 3000 calories per day they would satisfy the recommended daily Omega Oil intake with 2.5 tablespoons of Hemp Oil or 4.5 tablespoons of Hemp Seeds.
- Provide higher quality and quantity of protein than any other food source.
- Provide the B Vitamins, Minerals and Amino Acids necessary for utilisation of Omega oils.
- Are naturally rich in Gamma Tocopherol, the most potent form of Vitamin E and the preservative of choice for Omega Oils.
5. Fish or Hemp: What is essential?
When we talk about essential fatty acids, the term “essential” actually only applies to Alpha Linolenic Acid (LNA) and Linoleic Acid (LA) - the two Omega oils found in plants but does not apply to Eicosapentaenoic Acid (EPA) or Docosahexaenoic Acid (DHA), the Omega 3 derivatives found in Fish Oil. The reason is that your body can and does convert LNA into EPA and DHA, so you don’t need to eat EPA or DHA - you only need to make sure you have enough LNA and your body can make the others from it. FACT #1 - the EPA and DHA found in Fish Oil are not essential dietary components. But what about claims that your body cannot convert ALA (as found in Hemp Oil) into EPA and DHA or that the conversion rate is too low? That claim was not true when the fish oil industry invented it and it is not true now. Your body can convert ALA into both EPA and DHA. Various factors influence how much conversion takes place but the research is well established that at least 20-30% of Omega 3 LNA gets converted into the Omega 3 derivatives EPA and DHA. FACT #2 - Omega 3 from plant sources are converted into EPA and DHA in your body. Things that enhance the conversion of ALA into EPA and DHA are:
- B Vitamins
- Calcium, Zinc, Magnesium
All of which are found in high abundance in Hemp Seeds Another thing which increases the conversion of ALA into EPA and DHA is being vegetarian. Research at Cambridge University showed that conversion is 22% higher in vegetarians than in people who eat fish. FACT #3 - Vegetarian bodies are better at metabolising ALA Omega 3 A few other things you should know about Fish Oil. Firstly, wild and farmed fish all over the world are known to be contaminated with dangerous toxins such as Mercury, Dioxins and PCBs. This is why the British Government Food Standards Agency and others publish public warnings to limit the amount of fish eaten, especially in pregnant women.
How Much Do You Need?
Firstly, let us state that this information is purely for educational purposes, do not take this as nutritional or medical advice - you may consult your medical practitioner (GP) for this. How much you need would depend on your size, activity level, health status, sex and a whole lot of other factors. The National Heart Foundation of Australia recommend all Australians consume a combined total of 500mg of EPA and DHA every day. Knowing that approximately 30% of LNA from plant sources like Hemp is converted to EPA and DHA in the body this means that 1 tablespoon of Hemp Seeds or half a tablespoon of Hemp Oil per day would satisfy the Heart Foundation guidelines .
Fish Do Not Make Omega 3
Fish don’t even make Omega 3 - guess where they get it from? Plants! Fish must eat plankton and algae in the ocean to obtain Omega 3 or they must eat other fish that have eaten plants. So why not cut out the smelly non-essential middleman and go straight to the original clean green Omega machines, plants, of which hemp comes out the winner, again.