Including more fish oil than vegetable oil in your diet may help protect your tissues and organs from inflammation, according to University of Michigan researchers.
In your body, both fish oil and vegetable oil are converted into chemicals called prostanoids. Though these compounds help to control blood pressure and prevent allergies, when produced in excess they increase inflammation, pain, swelling, and redness in body tissues.
The researchers found that prostanoids from fish oil and vegetable oil are not the same. Those made from fish oil are “less effective at causing pain and swelling than those made from vegetable oil,” researchers said.
Meanwhile, adding fish oil to your diet effectively decreases the amount of prostanoids made from vegetable oil, though sometimes in unexpected amounts.
In the study, researchers looked at the effects of both fish oil and vegetable oil in cultured cells. Both oils are converted into prostanoids by cyclo-oxygenases (COX) enzymes, types 1 and 2.
In reactions that involved COX-1, if more fish oil was present it bound to COX-1 preferentially and limited vegetable oil’s access to the enzymes. However, in reactions involving COX-2, an increased amount of fish oil did not change the binding process, so more vegetable oil was converted to prostanoids.
The findings suggest that the body naturally regulates levels of prostanoids produced by fish and vegetable oils, but the researchers are still investigating exactly why COX-1 and COX-2 act differently.
They hope that, upon further investigation, they will be able to design new anti-inflammatory drugs that will bind to COX-2 and decrease the levels of prostanoids from vegetable oils.
Dr. Mercola’s Comment:
The central premise of this study is a great one: eating fish oil (omega-3 fats) is far better for your body than eating vegetable oil (omega-6 fats). These findings clearly show yet another reason why maintaining an ideal ratio of omega-3 to omega-6 fats is so important; it will help to reduce painful inflammation in your body.
However, the researchers missed the mark on their ultimate goal to develop more anti-inflammatory drugs. Rather than recommending the intuitive solution — that you could benefit from getting more fish oil, and less vegetable oil, in your diet — they are looking to develop drugs to lessen the potentially harmful effects of vegetable oil.
Vegetable oils like corn, soy, safflower, and canola are the worst oils you can eat. They are problematic not only because they easily become oxidized or rancid when exposed to heat from cooking, but also because Americans are consuming them in unprecedented amounts — up to 100 times greater than in the past.
The ideal ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fats is 1:1. This is what your ancestors thrived on for millions of years. Today, largely as a result of consuming far too many omega-6 fats and too few omega-3 fats, our ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 averages from 20:1 to 50:1!
You may not think that you use much vegetable oil from day to day, however if you eat processed foods you are consuming large amounts of vegetable oils. The vast majority of foods on your supermarket shelves — from tomato sauce to bread — contain them.
Consuming too many vegetable oils has been linked to:
To get your omega-6 to omega-3 ratio closer to the ideal 1:1, simply cut back on all vegetable oils (you’ll need to read labels if you eat processed foods) and get a regular supply of high-quality omega-3 fat, like that from krill oil, daily.
And remember, if you’re struggling with pain from inflammation, you can avoid the serious risks of anti-inflammatory drugs by trying out these natural anti-inflammatory alternatives instead. If you want a quick hint, omega-3 fat, which is known to effectively fight inflammation, is one excellent option.