Sport and omega-3


As we have said on previous posts, human beings evolved consuming a diet that contained amounts of omega-6 and omega-3 in a ratio of about 1:1 to 2:1, but dietary changes over the past decades in the intake of these polyunsaturated fatty acids have increased this proportion. Nowadays, in Western diets the ratio is between 15:1 and 16.7:1 (optimal dietary intakes should be around 1-4:1). Needless to say, Western diets are deficient in omega-3 and have excessive amounts of omega-6 fatty acids, in comparison to the diet on which human beings evolved.

Eicosanoids, a group of molecules involved in the regulation of inflammation, are formed from omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids. In general, eicosanoids derived from omega-6 are proinflammatory while eicosanoids derived from omega-3 are anti-inflammatory. That is to say, increases in the ratio omega-6:omega-3 could potentiate inflammatory processes.

Excessive radical formation and trauma during high-intensity exercise lead to an inflammatory state that is made worse by the increased amount of omega-6 in Western diets. This can be counteracted by eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), both of them omega-3 fatty acids.

Guidelines for the amateur athletes should include about 1 to 2 g/day of EPA and DHA at a proportion of EPA:DHA of 2:1.