Omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids
Unsaturated Fatty Acids
Unsaturated fatty acids are – like other fats – important building blocks in the body and have a number of important tasks (see list). Apart from the industrially produced trans fatty acids, all fatty acids have a certain function in the human body. There are basically no “bad” or “good” fatty acids. Nevertheless, a large imbalance within the fatty acid groups can cause significant health problems. Today, this imbalance exists in particular in the ratio between saturated and unsaturated fatty acids and within the polyunsaturated fatty acids between the so-called omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. The latter cannot be produced by humans themselves and are referred to as essential fatty acids.
Monounsaturated fatty acids
Monounsaturated fatty acids can be considered neutral in relation to inflammatory and degenerative diseases, with olive oil (main component: oleic acid 55-83%) being of particular importance due to its polyphenol content. The many health and life-prolonging benefits of olive oil are due to its high content of oleuropein, a polyphenol that helps lower LDL and blood pressure, prevents cognitive problems and cancer, and protects against oxidative damage [Omar 2010]..
Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids Omega 3 & Omega 6
The situation here is much more complicated. In inflammatory diseases and degenerative diseases, omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids are of particular importance because these fatty acids regulate inflammatory processes. While the omega-6 fatty acid arachidonic acid has an anti-inflammatory effect (which is primarily not bad, as the body also needs these factors for blood coagulation and wound healing, for example), omega-3 fatty acids form the anti-inflammatory antipole. The adjacent picture shows the influence of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids on inflammatory processes by means of prostaglandin synthesis. While the omega-3 branch has exclusively anti-inflammatory properties, the omega-6 branch shows a Janus-faced behaviour. Both anti-inflammatory and anti-inflammatory molecules are formed from the dihomo-gamma-linolenic acid. As mentioned above, our body’s genetic material prescribes a balance between omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids.
Nowadays the average omega-6/3 ratio in the population is about 15:1, while
a ratio of < 2.5:1
can be considered neutral and health-promoting.
Increase Omega 3 and reduce Omega 6 fatty acids!
Omega-3 long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids, including
- Linolenic acid (ALA),
- Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and
- Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA),
are dietary fats that are incorporated into cell membranes and play a role in anti-inflammatory processes and in the viscosity of cell membranes. ALA can only be obtained from food, while DHA and EPA can be synthesized from ALA in the body, but only to a limited extent. Therefore, it is crucial to ingest DHA and EPA additionally through food or supplements (if you do not eat fish). DHA is the most abundant lipid in the neuronal cell membrane, and EPA is involved in synaptic plasticity and increases the number and function of synapses. DHA and EPA are found mainly in foods such as fish oils and fatty fish, including salmon, tuna and trout, while ALA is commonly found in vegetable oils such as soy, rapeseed and linseed oils, nuts and in smaller amounts in seeds, vegetables, legumes, cereals and fruits.
Studies have shown that fish consumption is associated with a lower risk of AD development. In addition, an increased intake of omega-3 fatty acids appears to have positive long-term effects on the structure and volume of certain neuron-rich regions of the brain. The results of observational studies suggest that a sufficient intake of fatty fish and the omega-3 fatty acids they contain (especially DHA) may help prevent the development of pathological, progressive tissue loss from the cerebral cortex and reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease. An interesting study showed that the combination of omega-3 and alpha lipoic acid slowed cognitive and functional degeneration in AD over 12 months. Alpha lipoic acid is a powerful antioxidant and can recycle other antioxidants such as vitamin C, vitamin E and glutathione.
Another study showed a correlation between DHA and B vitamins: When DHA levels were high, supplementation of B vitamins showed greater effects.
These results suggest that the right combination of micronutrients is also important and not one substance alone, as the different micronutrients interact with each other and therefore a certain balance between them is important. A good balance provides all the substances that neurons need to function properly and live longer.
The following rules must therefore apply to the prevention of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia:
Change in the imbalance between omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids in the diet
A major cause of the 15:1 imbalance described above is the increased use of cheap omega-6-rich vegetable oils in the food industry, particularly as a component of animal feed (soy pellets). Every week, approximately 700 g of soy meal are used indirectly in animal farming for each German. In view of the high proportion of omega-6 in soya oil (over 50%), this concentrated feed alone leads to an big omega-6 source in our everyday diet. In addition there is sunflower oil (64%), corn seed oil (52%) and soya oil with also high omega-6 proportions in normal kitchen routine. Game meat or “grass fed” animals meat, on the other hand, is rather a source of good fats. In addition, we generally eat too few fish products or fish that have been farmed with industrial feed (also omega-6 rich).
Nutrition with foods that prevent the formation of inflammatory substances from linoleic acid
There are three ways to do this:
a) consumption of fish products with a high omega-3 content. Good sources of omega-3 include fatty fish such as herring, mackerel, salmon and sardines. Due to the pollution of the oceans, the heavy metal content should be taken into account. In this regard, fish such as herring, sardines and mackerel are better because they are in the food chain earlier than salmon, for example. Of the vegetable oils, linseed oil contains a particularly high proportion of omega-3 alpha-linolenic acid (56-71%). However, this “vegetable” omega-3 fatty acid can only be converted to the important omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA to a limited extent, since the conversion process is generally already occupied by the high proportion of omega-6 fatty acids [Talahalli 2010]. Only fish products/oils contain EPA and DHA directly.
b) reducing sugar consumption and insulin levels. A low insulin level prevents the formation of arachidonic acid from the precursor DGLA and an increase in triglycerides and LDL (low-densitxy lipoprotein) in the blood [Siri-Tarino 2010].
c) Nutritional supplement with turmeric (the main ingredient of curry) and sesame as a component of Asian cuisine. Both turmeric (curcumin) [Koeberle 2009] and sesame (sesamin) [ Wu 2009] block the formation of arachidonic acid and the inflammation-promoting prostaglandins type 2 derived from it. In Far Eastern cuisine, these natural remedies have been an effective means of maintaining health for centuries.
Omega 3 intake via dietary supplements
An approved and recommended agent here are pollutant-tested fish oils and even better algae oils with high concentrations of EHA and DPA. At least 2 g EPA/DHA should be added per day for prevention.
Koeberle, Andreas; Northoff, Hinnak; Werz, Oliver (2009): Curcumin blocks prostaglandin E2 biosynthesis through direct inhibition of the microsomal prostaglandin E2 synthase-1. In: Molecular cancer therapeutics 8 (8), S. 2348–2355. DOI: 10.1158/1535-7163.MCT-09-0290.
Omar SH. Oleuropein in olive and its pharmacological effects. Sci Pharm. 2010;78(2):133-54
Talahalli, Ramaprasad R.; Vallikannan, Baskaran; Sambaiah, Kari; Lokesh, Belur R. (2010): Lower efficacy in the utilization of dietary ALA as compared to preformed EPA + DHA on long chain n-3 PUFA levels in rats. In: Lipids 45 (9), S. 799–808. DOI: 10.1007/s11745-010-3464-6.
Siri-Tarino, Patty W.; Sun, Qi; Hu, Frank B.; Krauss, Ronald M. (2010): Saturated Fatty Acids and Risk of Coronary Heart Disease: Modulation by Replacement Nutrients. In: Curr Atheroscler Rep 12 (6), S. 384–390. DOI: 10.1007/s11883-010-0131-6.
Wu, Jason H Y; Hodgson, Jonathan M.; Clarke, Michael W.; Indrawan, Adeline P.; Barden, Anne E.; Puddey, Ian B.; Croft, Kevin D. (2009): Inhibition of 20-hydroxyeicosatetraenoic acid synthesis using specific plant lignans: in vitro and human studies. In: Hypertension 54 (5), S. 1151–1158. DOI: 10.1161/HYPERTENSIONAHA.109.139352.