What is an omega-6:3 (AA:EPA) ratio?
An omega-6:omega-3 ratio measures the ratio of omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids in your red blood cells. This test measures a specific type of ratio, your AA:EPA ratio. AA stands for arachidonic acid (an omega-6 fat) and EPA stands for eicosapentaenoic acid (an omega-3 fat).
What is its function?
While omega-3 fats reduce inflammation in your body, omega-6 fats promote it. Inflammation is an essential part of your immune response. But long-term, low-grade (chronic) inflammation can put you at risk of things like heart disease, cancer, arthritis, and diabetes. So it’s important to have the right balance of omega-6 and omega-3 fats.
Ideally, this ratio should be 2:1.
What can cause it to change?
Your omega-6:3 ratio is largely affected by your diet. If your diet is high in omega-6 fats, relative to your omega-3 intake, your ratio is likely to be high.
Most Western diets are too high in omega-6, so the ratio is around 10:1.
What are the most common symptoms?
If you don't get enough essential fatty acids it can cause rough skin and dermatitis.
What can I do to change my levels?
You can lower your omega-6:3 ratio by focusing on including more omegas-3s in your diet.
To increase your omega-3 levels, eat more foods rich in omega-3 fats. Oily fish, like salmon, trout, mackerel, tuna and sardines, is one of the best sources — aim to eat two portions a week. Although not as rich a source, grass-fed meat and omega-3 enriched eggs can also help to increase your levels.
There are some plant sources of omega-3, like flaxseeds, chia seeds, walnuts, and hemp seeds. But your body finds it harder to use this type of omega-3 (ALA). If you’re vegan, vegetarian, or don’t eat a lot of fish you might need to think about taking a supplement. Don't take more than 3 grams of omega-3s per day because of a possible increased risk of bleeding. You should speak with a health professional before starting a supplement.
If you're taking blood-thinning drugs, like Warfarin or Aspirin, or any medications for diabetes, only take supplements under the supervision of your doctor.
In the past, experts recommended reducing omega-6s in your diet. This is because it might contribute to inflammation in your body. But, recent research shows that it might actually help reduce your risk of heart disease. What seems to be important is replacing saturated fats with unsaturated fats, including omega-6 (found in sunflower seeds, walnuts, and pumpkin seeds).