Spirulina and its High Omega 3 to 6 Ratio
Spirulina tablets and powder are known to contain high levels of B vitamins, iron, copper and a number of other vitamins and minerals, but is spirulina algae also a good source of omega-3 fatty acids? Keep reading to find out.
Distorted Omega-6 to Omega-3 Ratios Cause Health Problems
Today, most people are getting way too many omega-6 fatty acids, which have inflammatory properties, and not enough omega-3 fatty acids which are known to have anti-inflammatory properties. Experts have differing views as to what the optimal ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 ratio should be, but almost all agree that the typical ratio of about 16:1 in the modern North American is bad for you. This distorted ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids in Western diets means increased inflammation within the body, and it has been linked to a wide variety of health problems, including cardiovascular disease, cancer and autoimmune diseases. The good news is that that there are actually plenty of foods with a high omega-3 content, or a high omega 3 to 6 ratio, and some of these all-natural dietary sources of omega-3 are even suitable for vegans and vegetarians. Spirulina algae, for example, contains omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids in a ratio of 1.6 to 1.
Is Spirulina a Good Source of Omega-3 Fatty Acids?
Most experts agree that the omega 6 to 3 ratio should range from 1:1 to 5:1. This means that in order to compensate for the high amount of omega-6 fatty acids in Western diets, you will have to look for foods with a particularly low omega 6 to 3 ratio (i.e. a high omega 3 to 6 ratio). With an omega-6 to omega-3 ratio of about 1.6 to 1, dried spirulina certainly fits the bill.
But there's a catch: the overall fat content of dried spirulina is only about 5 percent. This means an average person following a Western diet would have to eat excessive amounts of spirulina powder to counterbalance all those inflammatory fatty acids in his or her diet – and that of course could lead to some serious side effects and adverse reactions. On the other hand, if your diet is low in fat to start with, or if you are already getting plenty of omega-3s from other foods, such as fatty fish, cod liver oil or walnuts, eating spirulina may be a good way to get some additional omega-3s into your body.
Where to get Spirulina?
Spirulina products are widely available in health food stores and stores that sell all-natural dietary supplements, but you can also buy spirulina products online. The online retailer Amazon, for example, has tons of spirulina products, ranging from U.S.-grown spirulina processed into powder to spirulina tablets produced in Asia. If you live in the US, check out the spirulina products on Amazon.com. If you live in the UK, check out the spirulina products on Amazon.co.uk.
1. Simopoulos A. P. (2002). The importance of the ratio of omega-6/omega-3 essential fatty acids. Biomedicine & Pharmacotherapy, 56(8):365-79.
2. Fineli Food Composition Database, Release 16, provided by the Finnish National Institute for Health and Welfare (2015).