What you put into your body not only affects your physical wellbeing, but your mental health as well. The two are inseparably connected. Essential fatty acids such as omega-3s and omega-6s are both important to good health, but they have to be in balance. Certain foods can be a source of these important oils, as can supplements like fish oil and fish oil alternatives.
What Are Omega-3s and Omega-6s?
Omega-3s and omega-6s are polyunsaturated fatty acids that sustain a wide variety of bodily functions, including brain development and cognitive function, cellular function, immune response, heart health, bone, and joint health, and intestinal lining maintenance.
Your body doesn’t create omega-3 or omega-6 fatty acids on its own, which is why it’s so important to have a healthy intake level of these nutrients in your diet, including when it comes to fighting depression.
The Ideal Omega-3 to 6 Ratio and Mental Health
By and large, people today have a high ratio of omega-6 to omega-3s in their diet. Historically, our intake of the two was 1:1, but during modern times, that ratio has increased to 15:1 or more in Western societies, which (according to various studies) appears to be associated with various health risks, including obesity, and heart disease. Odds are, you’re getting plenty of omega-6, but not enough omega-3.
Studies on Omega-3s and Mental Health
Research suggests that this ratio may also be important to your mental health, particularly if you suffer from mood disorders like depression. One study published in 2017 found evidence that increasing intake of omega-3s could have a positive impact on symptoms associated with mood disorders in youth over a 7-year period. Conversely, those who had lower omega-3 levels with higher omega-6 to 3 ratios were more likely to be at “ultra-high risk.”
Another study found that lower levels of omega-3s were “associated with higher depression severity,” even while omega-6 levels remained the same.
Yet another (older) study found that two types of omega-3s found in fish oil, namely docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) were associated with depression. Namely, DHA and EPA levels were “significantly lower in depressive patients.”
How a Good Omega-3 to 6 Balance Helps Depression
Omega-3s in particular seem to have a similar effect to certain types of antidepressants, including the suppression of inflammatory chemicals in the immune system. The anti-inflammatory effect of omega-3s may contribute toward its anti-depressive effect, as well as reduce other health issues such as heart disease.
That said, the research into why omega-3s help with mood disorders is still unclear, though it does seem to suggest that they can play a significant role.
The Right Ratio for Mental Health
In general, it can help your mental health—not to mention your overall wellbeing—to bring your ratio of omega-6:3 intake to about 4:1. Often, supplements that provide omega-3s are useful in improving this ratio, such as our fish oil alternative.
FAQs About Omega-3s, Omega-6s, and Mental Health
Correcting the balance between omega-3s and omega-6s is important to your physical and mental wellbeing. Naturally, there will be questions. Some of the most common questions in this area include the following:
- What is the correct balance of omega-3 and 6?
In general, a 4:1 ratio of omega-3 to omega-6 is usually associated with better overall health.
- How much omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids are recommended daily?
You most likely already get enough omega-6 fatty acids in your diet. To rebalance your intake, you’ll typically want to increase your intake of omega-3s. The minimum required is 1.1 grams (for women) to 1.6 grams (for men) per day, but higher dosages (2.2 grams) may be recommended to help with depression.
- What are the symptoms of omega-6 deficiency?
Most people in the U.S. and other western countries don’t have any deficiency in omega-6s. That said, it’s the balance between omega-3 and omega-6 that can be an issue.
Improving Your Ratio of Omega-3 to 6 with a Fish Oil Alternative
Since much of the research into these essential fatty acids indicates a positive relationship with mental health, many people take omega-3 supplements for anxiety and depression.
One common source is fish oil, but many people either dislike fish or want a vegan option. A fish oil alternative like Dr. Ohhira’s Essential Living Oils can provide the same nutrients using entirely plant-based sources. To learn more about the benefits of our Essential Living Oils or other products, contact us.