There are two types of polyunsaturated fats:
- Omega 3, which is found in foods such as oily fish (e.g. mackerel, salmon, sardines, trout and tuna), and walnuts, almonds and linseeds.
- Omega 6, which is found in foods such as sunflower and safflower seeds, and soybeans.
The ratio of the amount of Omega 3 to Omega 6 is essential. Even though both Omega 3 and Omega 6 are vital for efficient function, if too much Omega 6 is consumed (in proportion to Omega 3), inflammation and illness can be promoted. On the other hand, Omega 3 fatty acids have been shown to reduce and even prevent illnesses and ailments. An ideal ratio is 1:1 (or at worst 1:4) of Omega 3 to Omega 6. For most Australians, the ratio is up to 1:35.
The benefits of Omega 3 include:
- Brain health, including memory and focus
- Protection against coronary heart disease
- Helping to positively regulate fat burning
- Reducing triglyceride levels
- Reduction of LDL-cholesterol, but not HDL-cholesterol
- Reducing blood pressure
- Speeding up recovery from major depression
- A decrease in inflammatory bowel disorder (IBD)
- Development of the foetus brain
- Anti-inflammatory properties
Note: Omega 6 can also help reduce LDL-cholesterol, but a high intake of omega 6 polyunsaturated fats can also lower HDL-cholesterol at the same time.
A study has shown that a 1.6 kg greater reduction in body fat over 16 weeks was reached in the group that took six fish oil tablets per day (6 x 1000mg capsules, each containing 300 mg fish oils) as opposed to the control group.
In another study, published in the American Journal of Health System Pharmacy, March 2007, patients with high triglycerides and poor coronary artery health were given 4 g per day of a combination of the polyunsaturated (Omega 3) fats, EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid), along with some monounsaturated fatty acids. Those patients with very unhealthy triglyceride levels (above 500 mg/dl) reduced their triglycerides by, on average, 45% and their VLDL-cholesterol by more than 50%.