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A Primer On Omega-3 And Omega-6 Fatty Acids

By HERWriter
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Dr. Joseph Hibbeln is thoroughly convinced that omega-3 fatty acids are key to good health. Omega-6 fatty acids are over-represented in our diets. Omega-6 fatty acids are healthy in and of themselves but their consumption is wildly out of proportion. This overabundance of omega-6 fatty acids is contributing to inflammatory problems at an unprecedented rate.

Dr. Hibbeln specifies marine fatty acids EPA and DHA as being more effective than APA found for instance in flax.

(Transcribed by video interview)

CAPT. Hibbeln, M.D.:
Hi. I am Dr. Joseph Hibbeln. I am a Captain in the United States Public Health Service and I am the acting chief on the Section of Nutritional Neurosciences at the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. And I am a psychiatrist and a lipid biochemist and something of an epidemiologist.

Omega-3 fatty acids are critical bioactive molecules that selectively concentrate in the brain and have profound effects in all parts of the body, but especially in the immune system and in cardiovascular health.

Now these are remarkable fatty acids, especially for the fact that they cannot be made by the human body; we have to get them from our diet.

So the balance of omega-3 fatty acids versus omega-6 fatty acids alters the composition of our brains, alters the composition of baby’s brains during development, and alters the potential for the immune system to over-react.

There’s two sources of omega-3 fatty acids in the diet really – marine fatty acids which have long chains, EPA and DHA, and these are the really biologically active fatty acids. They come from fish oils, from fish flesh and generally from the sea.

Another source is shorter chain fatty acids that are 18 carbons long that come from flax oil.

Now there’s a problem with trying to get all of your needs from the flax oil and the short chained fatty acids because not all women and not all people can convert the short chain fatty acids to the long chain fatty acids.

And as well the enzymes that are needed for conversion are in most US and North American diets, blocked and overwhelmed by the competing omega-6 fatty acids.

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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.

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