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8.2 The Balancing Act

It is pretty evident from the information provided that omega 3 fatty acids are an important part of the picture, and too much omega 6 can cause a problem. It is therefore vital that we get the balance right. Recommendations, based on emerging research, are to aim for a 2:1 ratio in favour of omega 3. This means we need to be consuming twice as much omega 3 than 6 to maximise the benefits of omega 3 and counteract any negative effects of omega 6. Thankfully this is pretty easy in practice. The first step is to avoid most vegetable oils like the plague. These are the apparent ‘heart healthy’ oils like sunflower oil, corn oil, or the generic vegetable oil. These oils contain mainly omega 6 fatty acids and will send your levels skyrocketing. In place of these oils, there are two cooking oils we recommend as replacements, olive oil and coconut oil. Olive oil contains no omega 6 and the dominant fatty acid is called oleic acid. This acid falls under a different category – omega 9. Omega 9 fatty acids have zero influence on omega balance, so don’t particularly present a problem at all. Coconut oil is a great oil for high-temperature cooking as it is completely heat-stable. Also, the fatty acids found in coconut oil are medium chain triglycerides (MCT’s). These MCT’s are rapidly broken down and used as an energy source and their impact on postprandial lipaemia (elevation of blood fats after a meal) is minimal. The next step in aiming for omega balance is to drastically cut back on processed foods. This is good advice for a million and one reasons but in terms of omega balance, many processed foods contain untold amounts of vegetable oils. They are cheap as chips, and for decades food manufacturers have been under pressure to reduce saturated fat in foods. This resulted in a shift to cheap vegetable oils as an alternative. Most ready meals, pre-made sauces, biscuits cakes and so on will contain a lot of omega 6 fatty acids. Go back to basics, and get cooking from scratch as much as you can. The second part of the solution is to up your intake of omega 3 fatty acids. The first and most obvious place to start is by consuming oily fish around three times per week. You could also consider supplements, however, medications such as warfarin, and heparin injections interact with fish oil supplements so please consult a doctor before considering supplementation.