By Dr. David Jockers
Chronic inflammation at the cellular and systemic level is the major underlying factor in all chronic disease. Fatty acids make up the cell membrane and have an intimate role in the hormonal responses throughout the body. The ideal ratio of essential omega-6 to omega-3 fats is critical to cellular health and systemic inflammatory levels.
Various researchers have found that the ideal ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids is anywhere between 1:1 and 4:1. The average American has a range around 16:1. This is due to diets that are high in omega-6 fats from commercialized animal products and industrial oils.
Types of omega-3 fatty acids:
There are four distinct types of omega-3 fats that are differentiated based on the number of carbon atoms (C) they contain along with the number of double-bonds (DB) they hold:
- ALA: 18 C & 3 DB: Found in green plants, flax, chia, hemp, pumpkin seeds and walnuts
- DPA: 20 C & 4 DB: Found in mothers’ milk, algae, fish and krill oil, and grass-fed meat products
- EPA: 20 C & 5 DB: Found in mothers’ milk, algae, fish and krill oil, and grass-fed meat products
- DHA: 22 C & 6 DB: Found in mothers’ milk, algae, fish and krill oil, and grass-fed meat products
The cell membranes within the brain, spinal cord and nervous system are especially dependent upon fluid-based membranes for proper signaling and neurotransmitter dynamics. EPA and DHA with 5 and 6 double-bonds, respectively, are very critical players in healthy nervous system function. The brain is made up of 60% fat , and 10-15% of that is DHA.
Optimal brain structure depends upon a healthy array of saturated fat and cholesterol on the membrane to hold the fluid-based fats tight at the corners. Then, a load of EPA and DHA in-between the solid structures to give it a great level of fluid mobility.
The body can and must convert ALA and DPA into the brain-enhancing nutrients EPA and DHA if they are to be of any significant use in the body. This process depends upon the enzymatic systems within our liver. If we have any sort of liver toxicity, nutrient deficiencies, or chronic diseases or infections, our ability to effectively convert ALA into EPA and DHA will be significantly hampered.
Fish oil vs. vegetarian sources:
Flax oil, chia seeds, hemp seeds, pumpkin seeds, walnuts and green leafy veggies provide small-chain ALA omega-3s. These are all good components to a healthy diet, but most individuals will struggle with converting the ALA into EPA and DHA.
Blue-green algae sources provide small amounts of DHA which is much more preferable. For strict vegans, the algae is definitely the best source of omega-3s. Fish oil provides significantly more of the powerful long-chain EPA and DHA in a highly bioavailable form and is therefore the best source of these critical fatty acids.
Choosing the best fish oil:
Fish oil from clean waters is a superior source of omega-3 fatty acids because it is primarily the long-chain varieties EPA and DHA. The fish oil should be purified of environmental toxins through a molecular distillation process and tested to be safe and pure by a third-party lab. This is called a “pharmaceutical grade,” and it should appear on the container.
The fish oil should be in the most bioavailable triglyceride form that is easily digested and absorbed into the bloodstream with minimal digestive energy. It should also be protected with fat-soluble antioxidant extracts to prevent oxidation of the delicate long-chain fats.
Sources for this article include:
About the author:
Dr David Jockers is a Maximized Living doctor and owns and operates Exodus Health Center in Kennesaw, Georgia where he specializes in functional nutrition, functional medicine and corrective chiropractic care to get to the underlying cause of major health problems.
His website features great articles on natural health and incredible recipes. He is the author of the best-selling book SuperCharge Your Brain – the complete guide to radically improve your mood, memory and mindset. He has over 36,000 active followers on his social media and email newsletter and is a big influencer in the Primal Health movement.
Dr. Jockers is also available for long distance consultations and health coaching to help you beat disease and reach your health goals. For more information got to www.drjockers.com