The Importance of Omega-3 Fatty Acids and the Endocannabinoid System
Many know omega-3 fatty acids as the essential nutrient that can be found in fish, nuts, flaxseeds, etc. – but what is not commonly known is Omega-3’s interdependent relationship with the body’s own endocannabinoid (eCB) system! Omega-3 and naturally forming eCBs go hand-in-hand as one cannot function effectively without the other. Once we accumulate a desirable ratio of Omega-3/Omega-6 fatty acids, they can quickly be converted to eCBs to act in numerous impactful biological pathways in the body.
Key Omega-3 Fatty Acids and Where to Find Them
These polyunsaturated fatty acids are essential, meaning that they cannot be made in the body and must be acquired from your diet. Eating nutrient-rich foods like fatty fish (salmon, herring, eel, shrimp, and sturgeon) and grass-fed animal products are a fantastic source of the two most important Omega-3 fatty acids: DHA and EPA. These two can also be made by conversion of ALA, the most common Omega-3, found in plant foods (kale, spinach, soybeans, and walnuts) and many seeds (chia, flax, and hemp).
EPA and DHA are further converted by enzymes into the endocannabinoids EPEA and DHEA, respectfully (Brown, 2010). These eCBs are strongly attracted to eCB receptors CB1 and CB2, and both play important roles in fighting inflammation and pain, preventing proliferation of cancer cells, and can be even further converted into more potent bioactive molecules critical for other eCB and non-eCB biological pathways (Watson, 2019).
Why Should We Care About Our Omega-6:Omega-3 Ratio?
DHA and EPA levels are typically very low in our bodies and the majority of the population lacks sufficient levels of Omega-3 fatty acids. However increasing consumption of fatty fish, omega-3-rich plants, seeds, or supplements can significantly increase our naturally circulating levels of these fatty acids for conversion into eCBs (Rossmeisl, 2012). Maintaining high levels of Omega-3 is crucial to re-equilibrate the balance between Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids in our body. We often naturally have higher levels of Omega-6 and though they should not be avoided, this imbalanced ratio to Omega-3 can lead to more inflammation, blood clots, and narrowing of blood vessels.
CBD and Omega-3
As Omega-3 fatty acids play a major part in regulating our eCB system, lack of this eCB can cause unwanted stress and pressure on this biological pathway. Stress on our natural eCB system will lessen the efficacy and efficiency of taking CBD supplements as the biological products that CBD acts upon would be greatly reduced. Therefore, in order for CBD to perform to its full potential, the body must first be well taken care of and we should ensure that we are getting sufficient levels of essential vitamins and nutrients – especially those that take part in the eCB system.
To conclude, Omega-3 fatty acids are fundamental – not only to balance out levels of Omega-6 fatty acids, but to also re-equilibrate our endocannabinoid system for it to take advantage of CBD in full. As many individuals are deficient in these fatty acids, incorporating them into our daily meals is something that everyone should be mindful of. If dietary restrictions limit this option, numerous fish or plant-based Omega-3 oils are currently on the market as an easier way to raise your Omega-3 fatty acid intake.
Works Cited –
Brown, I., Cascio, M. G., Wahle, K. W., Smoum, R., Mechoulam, R., Ross, R. A., Pertwee, R. G., & Heys, S. D. (2010). Cannabinoid receptor-dependent and -independent anti-proliferative effects of omega-3 ethanolamides in androgen receptor-positive and -negative prostate cancer cell lines. Carcinogenesis, 31(9), 1584–1591. https://doi.org/10.1093/carcin/bgq151
Rossmeisl M, Macek Jilkova Z, Kuda O, Jelenik T, Medrikova D, et al. (2012) Metabolic Effects of n-3 PUFA as Phospholipids Are Superior to Triglycerides in Mice Fed a High-Fat Diet: Possible Role of Endocannabinoids. PLoS ONE 7(6): e38834. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0038834
Watson, J. E., Kim, J. S., & Das, A. (2019). Emerging class of omega-3 fatty acid endocannabinoids & their derivatives. Prostaglandins & other lipid mediators, 143, 106337. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.prostaglandins.2019.106337