The best source of essential fatty acids, such as eicosapentaenoic acid or EPA and docosahexaenoic acid or DHA, is fish or fish oils. There are numerous fatty acids in the human diet, but the best essential fatty acids for those concerned about their health are EPA and DHA omega-3 fatty acids.
Omega 6 fatty acids are also essential, but in “civilized" countries, the ratio of omega 6 to omega 3 is unbalanced. In other words, most people in developed countries consume too much omega 6 and not enough omega 3.
The “ideal" ratio would be somewhere between 3:1 and 5:1, but in evaluations of typical modern diets, the ratio is often as high as 30:1. In other words, while we should be eating only three times as many omega 6 fatty acids as omega 3 fatty acids, many of us are eating 30 times as much omega 6s.
Much of this imbalance has to do with the popularity of beef, pork and chicken and the relative unpopularity of fish, the best source of essential fatty acids classified as omega 3. In addition, fast foods and commercially processed foods that contain fish often have added fat, such as margarine or butter. This again throws off the balance.
There are many reasons why omega 3s may be referred to as the best essential fatty acids. Omega 3s play a role in numerous functions of the human body, but one important focal point is the role that the omega3 to omega6 ratio plays in the inflammatory process.
Inflammation is a natural function of the immune system, but in “inflammatory diseases", such as rheumatoid and osteoarthritis, the inflammation is described as “inappropriate". One commonly held theory about rheumatoid arthritis is that it is caused by a “dysfunctional" immune system. However, recent studies seem to indicate that an imbalance in the omega 3 to omega 6 ratio may be at fault.
Numerous clinical studies have shown that adding fish oil supplements (the best source of essential fatty acids classified as omega3) to the diet of patients who suffer from rheumatoid arthritis reduced pain, inflammation and morning stiffness, while improving mobility. Although researchers have not evaluated the individual diets of patients before treatment, it is very likely that their intake of omega 6 was much higher than their intake of omega 3, the best essential fatty acids.
In the human body, all of the essential fatty acids are used to create compounds that either increase or decrease inflammation. Omega 3s are referred to as the best essential fatty acids, because the compounds derived from them decrease or “down-regulate" inflammation.
Drugs for treating diseases accompanied by chronic inflammation have drawbacks, because they can block immune system functions that fight infection and so can lead to the development of other diseases or numerous minor infections. Supplements containing the best essential fatty acids (omega 3s) naturally reduce inflammation in the body without affecting other necessary immune system functions.
The best source of essential fatty acids DHA and EPA omega3s is oily fish (not white fish, which is commonly used in processed and fast foods) or supplements that have been derived from the flesh of oily fish. Because eating fish on a daily basis is risky due to high levels of contaminants like mercury, daily fish oil supplements that have been distilled to remove contaminants are preferable.
Dan Ho is editor of http://www.omega-3-fish-oil-guide.com . Visit us now for tips and advice on how to choose a quality omega 3 essential fatty acid fish oil supplement.