The human body can produce all the fatty acids it needs, except for two: linoleic acid, an omega-6 fatty acid and alpha-linolenic acid, an omega-3 fatty acid. These are essential fatty acids and must be consumed from the diet. Fats are required in every cell of our bodies and are vital for regulating blood pressure, strengthening our immune system and keeping our brains healthy. Whilst omega-6 can be found in most vegetable oils, poultry, leafy green vegetables and nuts; omega-3 is in a smaller number of foods such as oily fish, seeds and nuts.
The ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 in our bodies is very important. Omega-6 fatty acids have a pro-inflammatory role while omega-3 fatty acids have an anti-inflammatory role. Although inflammation helps the immune system to fight infection, chronic inflammation in the body can lead to the development of disease, including heart disease and autoimmune diseases.
As human diets have moved from that of hunter gatherer to the modern agricultural era, the amount of omega 6 fatty acids we consume has increased dramatically such that we now consume more than 10 times the amount of omega 6 as omega 3. The resulting modern ratio of around 16:1 is believed to be responsible for a number of inflammatory diseases such as heart disease and type 2 diabetes. An ideal ratio is about 2:1 and this is normally achievable by changes in diet and supplementation of omega 3 rich fish oils or algae. This test checks the ratio of omega 6 to 3 and highlights any irregular levels.
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