Your body’s balance of two different fatty acids – omega-6 and omega-3 – is called the omega-6:omega-3 ratio (omega-3 is commonly found in fish oil supplements and fatty fish like salmon). Most people in the United States get much more omega-6 from their diet than omega-3, so they have a high ratio.
However, a high omega-6:omega-3 ratio can contribute to inflammation and harm your health in other ways – some of which you’ll discover here. (Is your omega-6:omega-3 ratio low enough for optimal wellness? Check with EverlyWell’s Omega-3 Plus Test.)
So read on to find out a few ways a high omega-6:omega-3 ratio can negatively affect your health – and learn how you can improve your body’s balance of these two fatty acids.
Omega-3 can help shut down inflammation in your body – but omega-6 fatty acids actually promote inflammation . High amounts of omega-6 compared to omega-3 can thus increase the risk of diseases that involve chronic inflammation (including heart disease) .
Omega-3, commonly found in fish oil supplements, can help shut down inflammation in your body. But omega-6 actually promotes inflammation.
On the other hand, a low omega-6:omega-3 ratio can minimize inflammation. A 2:1 ratio, for example, has been shown to reduce inflammation in people with rheumatoid arthritis .
Scientists have found that higher omega-6:omega-3 ratios increase the risk of obesity . The risk of obesity drops, however, the more omega-3 your body has.
Higher omega-6:omega-3 ratios can increase the risk of obesity.
For example, various studies indicate that supplementing with omega-3 can lower body weight in lean, overweight, and obese people .
There’s reason to believe that a high omega-6:omega-3 ratio can be bad for your bones. Case in point: a study of women and men – between the ages of 45 and 90 – explored the link between omega-6:omega-3 ratios and bone mineral density. The researchers behind the study discovered that higher omega-6:omega-3 ratios were linked with lower bone mineral density .
A high omega-6:omega-3 ratio can be bad for your bones.
(Bone mineral density refers to the amount of calcium in your bones . Low bone mineral density is a key feature of osteoporosis, a condition in which one’s bones are weak and brittle.)
Improving your body’s omega-6:omega-3 ratio comes down to reducing your intake of omega-6 and boosting your omega-3 consumption. You can do that by avoiding foods that have been cooked with vegetable oils with a high omega-6 content – like corn oil, cottonseed, safflower, soybean, and sunflower oils.
Instead, opt for oils with lots of omega-3 – such as flaxseed, perilla, and chia seed oils.
Also, try to eat oily fish 2-3 times a week – and consume less meat (other than fish). Oily fish – like salmon and mackerel – are rich sources of omega-3.
(Of course, don’t make any significant dietary changes without first talking with your doctor.)
It can also be helpful to know what your current omega-6:omega-3 ratio is, as this can tell you how close you are to the ideal ratio. EverlyWell’s at-home Omega-3 Plus Test is a convenient way to do just that, so learn more about this easy-to-use kit here.