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Omega Fatty Acids: The Missing Dietary Link?

Environmental, cultural and practical changes in the industrialized world have resulted in alterations in dietary habits that have had interesting, if not life-threatening implications.  The human physiology has remained relatively unchanged for tens of thousands of years. Our  diet had remained  relatively unchanged, but for the periodic and unpredictable famine.

Rather suddenly, rapid and remarkable dietary changes occurred. Diets rich in fiber, complicated carbohydrates and omega-3 fatty acids were changed to diets poor in fiber, rich in simple carbohydrates and rich in omega-6 fatty acids.  Replacement of simple carbohydrates for the more natural complicated carbohydrates introduces a vulnerability to diabetes, obesity, autoimmune disorders and vascular disease.  Replacement of omega-6 fatty acids for omega-3 fatty acids introduces a vulnerability to inflammatory diseases, vascular diseases and cancer.

The Problem

The human diet influenced human physiology for many thousands of years before the modern age.  Omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids had been consumed through a combination of vegetable and animal sources resulting in a rather stable ratio between the two classes of oils.  The Western Diet, however, changed, resulting in an increase in the amount of omega-6 fatty acids and a steady decline in the amount of omega-3’s.  This ratio was important for reasons more subtle than simple caloric intake.

The Western Diet has increased omega-6 (pro-inflammatory) fatty acids relative to the omega-3 (anti-inflammatory) fatty acids. Returning to a healthy balance requires we restore a more normal ratio through the reduction of omega-6 and the introduction of omega-3 fatty acids.