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Do You Need More Omega-3 and Less Omega-6?

A new study from China found that individuals with high intakes of omega-3 fatty acids and low intakes of omega-6 may see a large decrease in colorectal cancer risk.

The study was published in the August 2009 issue of Cancer Epidemiology Biomarkers & Prevention.

For the study, researchers obtained dietary data on 73,242 Chinese women using food frequency questionnaires.

They found that women with the highest ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 had a 95% increased risk of colorectal cancer compared to those with the lowest ratio.

Omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids are both essential fatty acids (EFAs), meaning they cannot be made in the body and must be obtained from food.

The average western diet does not provide nearly enough omega-3 fatty acids, which are found most abundantly in cold water fish like salmon and mackerel, whole grains and beans.

On the other hand, the western diet contains much more omega-6 than our body needs, due to the use of huge amounts of oils that are extracted from plants, such as corn and peanut oils. Consuming too much omega-6 can result in raised blood pressure, increased blood clotting and may block a person's ability to respond to insulin.

However, a certain amount of omega-6 fatty acids is essential for good health, and a 3:1 ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 consumption is recommended. The current ratio for the average North American is estimated to be at 15:1.

Many studies have found that consuming more omega-3 fatty acids can have numerous positive benefits for your health, such as healthier cholesterol and blood pressure levels. You can boost your omega-3 consumption by taking a supplement, but make sure it's certified for quality and purity first.

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