There is significant confusion regarding the need for essential fatty acids. I think an explanation would help to clarify the need and the required ratios. Why are they important?
Essential fatty acids are dietary constituents that promote good health. In addition to the need for omega- 3 fatty acids we also need another essential fatty acid known as omega 6. For optimum health we need to consume roughly the same amount of omega-3s and omega-6s. The pet food industry prepares some pet foods with high levels of omega-3s that are effective for treating various inflammatory diseases. However, omega-3 fatty acids are quite sensitive to heat and are destroyed and can easily become rancid during processing. Omega 3 and 6 supplements can provide the needed balance and prevent many skin and coat conditions. Omega-6s contain the fatty acid arachidonic acid. This substance turns into eicosanoids. Omega -6 eicosanoids are strongly inflammatory. Omega-3 eicosanoids are only slightly inflammatory or they can even be anti-inflammatory. That’s why is is so important to balance the two fatty acids.
The American diets developed for human foods contain 10 to 20 times more omega-6s than omega-3s. When the ratio of the 6s far outnumber the 3s we end up with a inflammatory condition. That’s why the ratios are so important. Without balance, uncontrolled inflammatory responses can damage virtually any organ system in the body.
The highly inflammatory eicosanoids produced by omega-6s are great infection fighters, but when left unchecked by omega-3s, they can damage healthy tissue. The result can be a digestive disorder such as Crohns disease which causes the gut to become inflamed. It can cause rheumatoid arthritis resulting in joint deformity, and asthma where the airways become inflamed.
It is my perception that a high percentage of a veterinarians income is due to the devastating effect of feeding our pets dead and devitalized food. Modern pet foods contain an overabundance of omega 6′s at the expense of omega 3′s. Therefore, our pets become deficient in these vital nutrients and they need to be supplemented to gain the needed balance of essential fatty acids.
posted by Rob Mueller