How too much omega-6 and not enough omega-3 is making us sick

vegetableoilpoison

In the last article we discussed the problems humans have converting omega-3 (n-3) fats from plant sources, such as flax seeds and walnuts, to the longer chain derivatives EPA and DHA. Since EPA and DHA (especially DHA) are responsible for the benefits omega-3 fats provide, and since EPA and DHA are only available in significant amounts in seafood, it follows that we should be consuming seafood on a regular basis.

But how much is enough? What does the research literature tell us about the levels of EPA and DHA needed to prevent disease and ensure proper physiological function?

I’m going to answer this question in detail in the next article. But before I do that, I need to make a crucial point: the question of how much omega-3 to eat depends in large part on how much omega-6 we eat.

Over the course of human evolution there has been a dramatic change in the ratio of omega-6 and omega-3 fats consumed in the diet. This change, perhaps more than any other dietary factor, has contributed to the epidemic of modern disease.

The historical ratio of omega-6 to omega-3

Throughout 4-5 million years of hominid evolution, diets were abundant in seafood and other sources of omega-3 long chain fatty acids (EPA & DHA), but relatively low in omega-6 seed oils.

Anthropological research suggests that our hunter-gatherer ancestors consumed omega-6 and omega-3 fats in a ratio of roughly 1:1. It also indicates that both ancient and modern hunter-gatherers were free of the modern inflammatory diseases, like heart disease, cancer, and diabetes, that are the primary causes of death and morbidity today.

At the onset of the industrial revolution (about 140 years ago), there was a marked shift in the ratio of n-6 to n-3 fatty acids in the diet. Consumption of n-6 fats increased at the expense of n-3 fats. This change was due to both the advent of the modern vegetable oil industry and the increased use of cereal grains as feed for domestic livestock (which in turn altered the fatty acid profile of meat that humans consumed).

The following chart lists the omega-6 and omega-3 content of various vegetable oils and foods:

efa content of oils

Vegetable oil consumption rose dramatically between the beginning and end of the 20th century, and this had an entirely predictable effect on the ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fats in the American diet. Between 1935 and 1939, the ratio of n-6 to n-3 fatty acids was reported to be 8.4:1. From 1935 to 1985, this ratio increased to 10.3:1 (a 23% increase). Other calculations put the ratio as high as 12.4:1 in 1985. Today, estimates of the ratio range from an average of 10:1 to 20:1, with a ratio as high as 25:1 in some individuals.

In fact, Americans now get almost 20% of their calories from a single food source – soybean oil – with almost 9% of all calories from the omega-6 fat linoleic acid (LA) alone! (PDF)

This reveals that our average intake of n-6 fatty acids is between 10 and 25 times higher than evolutionary norms. The consequences of this dramatic shift cannot be overestimated.

Omega-6 competes with omega-3, and vice versa

As you may recall from the last article, n-6 and n-3 fatty acids compete for the same conversion enzymes. This means that the quantity of n-6 in the diet directly affects the conversion of n-3 ALA, found in plant foods, to long-chain n-3 EPA and DHA, which protect us from disease.

Several studies have shown that the biological availability and activity of n-6 fatty acids are inversely related to the concentration of of n-3 fatty acids in tissue. Studies have also shown that greater composition of EPA & DHA in membranes reduces the availability of AA for eicosanoid production. This is illustrated on the following graph, from a 1992 paper by Dr. William Landis:

percentage of n-6 and n-3 in tissue associated with

The graph shows the predicted concentration of n-6 in the tissue based on dietary intake of n-3. In the U.S. the average person’s tissue concentration of highly unsaturated n-6 fat is 75%. Since we get close to 10% of our calories from n-6, our tissue contains about as much n-6 as it possibly could. This creates a very inflammatory environment and goes a long way towards explaining why 4 in 10 people who die in the U.S. each year die of heart disease. (Note: the ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 matters, but so does the total amount of each.)

In plain english, what this means is that the more omega-3 fat you eat, the less omega-6 will be available to the tissues to produce inflammation. Omega-6 is pro-inflammatory, while omega-3 is neutral. A diet with a lot of omega-6 and not much omega-3 will increase inflammation. A diet of a lot of omega-3 and not much omega-6 will reduce inflammation.

Big Pharma is well aware of the effect of n-6 on inflammation. In fact, the way over-the-counter and prescription NSAIDs (ibuprofen, aspirin, Celebres, etc.) work is by reducing the formation of inflammatory compounds derived from n-6 fatty acids. (The same effect could be achieved by simply limiting dietary intake of n-6, as we will discuss below, but of course the drug companies don’t want you to know that. Less profit for them.)

As we discussed in the previous article, conversion of the short-chain n-3 alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), found in plant foods like flax and walnut, to DHA is extremely poor in most people. Part of the reason for that is that diets high in n-6 LA inhibit conversion of ALA to DHA. For example, one study demonstrated that an increase of LA consumption from 15g/d to 30g/d decreases ALA to DHA conversion by 40%.

Death by vegetable oil

So what are the consequences to human health of an n-6:n-3 ratio that is up to 25 times higher than it should be?

The short answer is that elevated n-6 intakes are associated with an increase in all inflammatory diseases – which is to say virtually all diseases. The list includes (but isn’t limited to):

  • cardiovascular disease
  • type 2 diabetes
  • obesity
  • metabolic syndrome
  • irritable bowel syndrome & inflammatory bowel disease
  • macular degeneration
  • rheumatoid arthritis
  • asthma
  • cancer
  • psychiatric disorders
  • autoimmune diseases

The relationship between intake n-6 fats and cardiovascular mortality is particularly striking. The following chart, from an article entitled Eicosanoids and Ischemic Heart Disease by Stephan Guyenet, clearly illustrates the correlation between a rising intake of n-6 and increased mortality from heart disease:

landis graph of hufa and mortality

As you can see, the USA is right up there at the top with the highest intake of n-6 fat and the greatest risk of death from heart disease.

On the other hand, several clinical studies have shown that decreasing the n-6:n-3 ratio protects against chronic, degenerative diseases. One study showed that replacing corn oil with olive oil and canola oil to reach an n-6:n-3 ratio of 4:1 led to a 70% decrease in total mortality. That is no small difference.

Joseph Hibbeln, a researcher at the National Institute of Health (NIH) who has published several papers on n-3 and n-6 intakes, didn’t mince words when he commented on the rising intake of n-6 in a recent paper:

The increases in world LA consumption over the past century may be considered a very large uncontrolled experiment that may have contributed to increased societal burdens of aggression, depression and cardiovascular mortality.

And those are just the conditions we have the strongest evidence for. It’s likely that the increase in n-6 consumption has played an equally significant role in the rise of nearly every inflammatory disease. Since it is now known that inflammation is involved in nearly all diseases, including obesity and metabolic syndrome, it’s hard to overstate the negative effects of too much omega-6 fat.

In the next article we’ll discuss three different methods for determining healthy intakes of n-3 that take background intake of n-6 into account.

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Comments Join the Conversation

  1. Jeff says

    Chris,
    What is the asterisk (on fish oil) indicating in the table?  Also, I would love to see more discussion on olive oil.
    I don’t use vegetable/corn oil in my home cooking at all, although I haven’t checked how much I am exposed through buying processed/restaurant food.
    Jeff

  2. Chris Kresser says

    Jeff,

    I’m not sure what the asterisk means.  I pulled that graphic from a website a while back and now I can’t find it.

    Olive oil is between 55 and 83% omega-9 (monounsaturated), and 3.5 and 21% omega-6 (polyunsaturated).  The fatty acid content varies by the region where it’s produced.

    On average, according to Wikipedia, olive oil contains 11% omega-6 LA.  That is still quite high, which is why I only recommend olive oil in moderation.

    The best fats to consume and cook with are those that are the most saturated: butter, coconut oil, ghee, tallow, duck & goose fat.  Pretty much the opposite of what we’ve been told.

    • Caleb says

      I would assume the asterisk is meant to clarify that fish oil is high in n-3 when it is caught in the wild instead of farmed. :)

      • sandi lampiris says

        Why is farm-raised fish missing omega 3?
        What ocean fish, sourced from what countries, do you recommend?

        • says

          I take Laminine Omega. LPGN sources its fish oil from Engraulis Ringens, a member of the anchovy family, found in the Humboldt Current off the coast of South America near Peru, where the waters are clean and clear. Phytoplankton that the Engraulis Ringens species consumes in this region is rich in DHA and EPA, giving the fish the highest naturally occurring ratios of DHA and EPA of any other fish species. The fish oil also undergoes molecular distillation, and is tested before and after the process to remove gunk and toxins and ensure the safety of the oil.

          It is patented and has Omega fatty Acids 3 (EPA and DHA),CoQ10(Extended Release), Vitamin K2… It is made in USA; head office is in California. That’s why delivery and handling is free in the States and to me it is convenient. Delivery varies from 3 to 8 days. I found this online and have been ordering it online as well http://tinyurl.com/q8fjc93 . You click Join if you want to be a member and get the member’s price Or click retail order if you don’t want to be a member.

          So far, I’m very satisfied with this product.

        • Alan Friedman says

          sandi lampiris asked:
          “Why is farm-raised fish missing omega-3?”

          That all depends what the fish are fed. If they are fed grain (e.g. corn) based feed, then it will be high in omega-6. If they are fed fish meal from fish that ate omega-3-rich algae, then they will have the expected omega-3′s but still be likely to consume a lot of antibiotics, growth hormones, effluents, and local land-based pollutants. (Does anybody have solid data on fish feeds???)

    • Guy says

      Clearly that graph is a bit misleading, fish most certainly has omega-6 PUFAs, although yes usually in pretty high 3 to 6 ratios. Just look on nutritiondata.self.com or cronometer.com or somewhere, not hard.

    • Madee says

      I would believe that the asterisk means only wild caught fish, since farmed fish are being fed diets similar to grain-fed cattle and pigs, thus the ratio of their fat will lean more towards omega 6. Another thing of note is that animals eating a more natural diet (rotational grazing) have fat much higher in omega 3.

    • says

      Hi Chris,
      When I live din south-western France, I was a big fan of goose and duck fat — until I realized that modern ducks and geese are fed corn! (Which has no omega-3 and is high in omega-6).
      As for ghee, I’m concerned by reports that modern dairy fat contains high concentrations of estrogens because dairy cows are milked while pregnant (when their estrogen levels are 13 times higher than when they’re not…). One study published last year found that breast cancer survivors consuming high-fat cows’ milk foods had a higher risk of dying from breast cancer than women eating little to no high-fat dairy. (I wrote about this here: http://modernmediterranean.com/time-to-take-milk-off-the-menu/). What do you make of this?
      Thanks & best, Conner

    • Pam Butler says

      Hi, I’m trying to figure out why I’m getting more ill with Autoimmune disease. Type 1 diabetes, lupus, Hashimotos….I try to eat right but am getting worse. I think either our food or the meds I take are poisoning me…making my body attack itself. I’m having problems with toxic levels of triglycerides…over 1200 last month. I’m a nurse no longer working due to my conditions….spend much time trying to figure out what is going on with me. I have just found this site and hope you could help me. I try to eat a “healthy” diet with lots of whole grains, only use olive oil, rarely eat meat but do use dairy…my go to for protein is cheese. I also love to snack on pumpkin seeds with the shell…fiber? Anyway, I’m having increasing triglycerides….could it be the liberal use of olive oil. They are trying me on high dose fish oil but I just realized my horrible abdominal pain is being caused by this. Crestor and the other statins cause my already overwhelming muscle pain to become unbearable. I’m running out of options. Feel like I need to go somewhere and live in a health “rehab” type environment to figure it out. Help?!

      • Deborah says

        I lowered my triglyceride levels ( from 300 to 89 in 6 months) by cutting out all white foods except cauliflower. No grains, sugar ( which is highly inflamatory) or white potatoes. I have lost 25lbs over that six months and lowered my HgA1C from 9.6 to 6.6. Try it and see if that helps. Eat lots of veggies, cheese, eggs, and grass fed meat if at all possible. I know it is more expensive but you can eat less and eat well. The fats help with satiaty.

      • Jimmygu3 says

        Hi Pam,
        Your symptoms sound very similar to the documentary I just watched, and the guy cured all his autoimmune, inflammation, and obesity issues by drinking nothing but vegetable juice. It’s on Netflix: Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead (sorry for the title). I’m personally more a proponent of eating lots of veggies, rather than juicing, but it worked for him. Also I just read that pumpkin seeds are ultra high in n-6, so inflammatory. Good luck and hope you feel better!

  3. enliteneer says

    Just to add to the list,  Olive oil is mostly Omega-9, with only about 10% omega-6.     Grape Seed Oil  (popular in Chile),  is mostly (~75%) omega-6.
    So what about Omega-9s?   How does it relate to Omega-3s?   Is it also pro-inflammation?
    Due to the lower omega-6 content, I would think Olive or Flaxseed oil (or even Canola) would be the ideal cooking oil, yet I don’t often hear it touted for cooking.. why?    The relatively low smoke temperature (200′s F)?
     

    • linda kruse says

      I am learning that oils with low smoke temp can be used at lower heats on stove to saute vegetables and do cooking. It is new for me as I have always done stir frys at high temperatures. Learning how to use oils and stove more effectively, even at my age. Hope this creates awareness and thinking. Open to comments.

    • says

      The some point of extra virgin olive oil is 200 celsius/centigrade and NOT 200 Farenheit
      Olive oil has one of the highest smoke points (avocado is higher).
      All refined vegetable oils have a higher smoke point compared to their corresponding cold pressed.
      To compare, butter has ca 150 centigrade.

    • Dorie says

      When cooking with oils at high temps it is tuned into rancid inflammatory oxidized poison. Look into avocado oil for it’s high temp resistance.
      Who recommends canola, that is some old tech people? that stuff is so bad highly refined and rancid as it sits on the shelf. My joints hurt just thinking about it.
      Soy? xenoestrogens, phytoestrogens. Man boobs and early puberty for girls- hormone disrupters.
      Antibiotics used in dairy cows by the gallons, are helpful in creating multi drug resistant organisms that are rampant now, thanks for that. and everything is fed with GMO corn. Cows, chickens, fish. If you don’t eat organic grass fed and finished, free range, and wild caught, who knows what you’re eating? And now all the oceans are poisoned and radioactive? Now what? Oh our lovely flouridated chlorinated drinking water yeah.

  4. Chris Kresser says

    The more unsaturated an oil is, the more easily it oxidizes.  Flax is omega-3, which is very unsaturated.  That’s why it’s imperative never to cook with it.  In fact, it must be stored in the refrigerator in opaque containers to prevent oxidation from light and heat.  There’s no reason to consume flax oil anyways, as I stated before.

    The best fats to cook with are saturated, because they’re relatively protected against oxidation.  Coconut oil, butter, ghee, and animal fats like tallow are all good choices.

    Olive oil is less inflammatory than omega-6 oils, but still has a significant amount of omega-6 so should be used in moderation.

    • Bob says

      “There’s no reason to consume flax oil anyways, as I stated before.”

      Have you heard of or studied the work of Johanna Budwig? Her whole life’s work was spent on this topic and she no doubt, and many others, myself included, take exception to such a profound pronouncement. Check it out sometime.

      • Jane says

        This doctor needs to meet doctor Michael Gregor…who speaks extensively on flaxseed.. It sounds like this site is against plant based diet which makes it quite one sided

  5. says

    The article only mentioned fats from oils, and neglected fats from animal tissue.  Mammals and birds are also 100% deficient in Omega-3.  The primary fatty acid in beef is Arachidonic Acid, an Omega-6.  It has been found that many vegetarian societies are actually deficient in this fatty acid, yet most Americans are flooded with it.  As with most substances, too much is as bad or worse than too little.

  6. says

    Your point on Omega-3s, -6s, and -9s ignores the Omega-7s.  I don’t know much about them, as they have only come to my attention recently, but they are there…

  7. Chris Kresser says

    I ignored it on purpose.  I don’t believe they’re anywhere near as important as the n-3 and n-6, and not at all as common in the diet.

  8. Chris Kresser says

    Grass-fed meat has more n-3 than factory-farmed meat.  The difference is very small, but it’s there.

    Our ancestors likely got EPA & DHA from seafood and consuming the brains of ruminants.

    • tickyul says

      Lots of the smaller fish have undetectable levels of Mercury and other toxins.

      These low-level fish have short life spans and do not consume things that have high levels of toxins.

    • Lauren says

      Krill is low on the food chain and doesn’t contain mercury or PCBs. And it’s more potent than regular fish oil. Try it as a supplement.

  9. says

    Can you say something about the n-6 / n-3 ratio of pastured beef, pork, lamb, chicken, and goat, as well as pastured eggs?

    Your site is FANTASTIC!

    Thank you,
    Kevin

    • Chris Kresser says

      Kevin,

      Glad you like the site! Check out this chart comparing fatty acid profiles of grass-fed and grain-fed beef. Also see this study. Most of the evidence shows a higher concentration of n-3 and a lower concentration of n-6 in grass fed meat. Several studies suggest that grass-based diets elevate precursors for Vitamin A and E, as well as cancer fighting antioxidants such as glutathione (GT) and superoxide dismutase (SOD) activity as compared to grain-fed contemporaries.

      Hope that helps,
      Chris

  10. says

    My opinion is that you do not need much poly-unsaturated fatty acids at all. When you consume somewhere between 0.5 and 3 grams per day it’s more than enough. You easily get that out of real foods. So you don’t need sead oils or fish oils. I made a little video on the subject: http://bit.ly/c4JheJ

  11. Chris Kresser says

    Looks interesting, but without access to the full text I can’t comment on it.  I can say that there is a large body of evidence supporting the pro-inflammatory role of LA, both in vitro and in vivo.

  12. enliteneer says

    I couldn’t find the full article anywhere either!     But according to WorldCat / ScienceDirect , it’s available for library use only at a nearby University.  Hopefully, they have a copy machine!
     
    Incidentally, that author, Kevin Fritsche, seems to have published other worthwhile  articles:
     
    The adverse effects of an in vivo inflammatory challenge on the vitamin E status of rats is accentuated by fish oil feeding:
    http://www.jnutbio.com/article/S0955-2863(96)00126-X/abstract
     
    Omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids impair in vivo interferon- gamma responsiveness via diminished receptor signaling:
    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15633108

  13. Roger Kaza says

    He kindly sent me a PDF of the article.  It says “Author’s Personal Copy” on it, so I don’t think I should post it, but send me an e-mail address and I will forward it.

  14. Chris Kresser says

    Roger,

    Below is a response from a communication I had with Stephan Guyenet from Whole Health Source about this study:

    Regarding omega-6. There are a few issues here. One is the studies that show that the people who eat the most n-6 “have the least inflammation”. IIRC, he’s talking about observational studies showing that people with the highest n-6 intake have lower levels of circulating markers of inflammation. First of all, it’s highly susceptible to “healthy user bias”; as I’m pretty sure if you looked at those studies most of the smokers would be in the low n-6 category. These studies are typically conducted in populations in which nearly everyone has an excessive n-6 intake and a poor n-6:3 balance, so it’s hard to make any broad conclusions. But also, circulating markers of inflammation (CRP, IL-6 etc) really are a poor surrogate for tissue inflammation, which is much more complex and difficult to measure.

    He mentions that some n-6 eicosanoids are involved in resolving inflammation, which is true. However, n-3 are involved in it as well. The more n-6 you eat, the more it blocks EPA and DHA production from ALA, which you need to make inflammation-resolving n-3 eicosanoids. So even though you still have the resolving n-6 eicosanoids, that’s only half the puzzle.

    By the way, I think there are also likely to be negative effects of excess n-6, and particularly veg oils, on health that don’t depend on eicosanoids.

  15. Jane says

    Get your facts straight. You are spewing complete misinformation. EPA and DHA are not essential fatty acids.

    The only essental fatty acids are ALA and LA. We need more PARENT omega 6 . Look into Brian Peskin. SCIENCE , NOT opinion.

    • Chris Kresser says

      Read the articles and the studies I cited. I’ve read Peskin. I’ve also read hundreds of studies that contradict his view. The entire point of this series of articles is that the FAs considered to be essential are not essential. You might want to actually read an article before you leave a comment on it.

  16. Tom says

    I couldn’t post my full message.
    This post is just a test, to see if the simplest one possible works, with no formatting or links etc.

  17. Tom says

     

    Omega-3 is shown by ZERO evidence to have ANY health benefits.

    Sorry, suckers! (Now flame me.)

    “Anthropological research suggests that our hunter-gatherer ancestors consumed omega-6 and omega-3 fats in a ratio of roughly 1:1.”
    Bollocks! How could they know a thing like that? Educated guesses about available food? What anthropologists (including archaeologists) find from empirical evidence is that humans today and in the past have survived equally well on a very wide range of diets.
    “How could they know a thing like that?” is a question this article keeps provoking in me. Perhaps they should ask such questions themselves? One thing the article certainly is not, is ‘healthy skepticism’.
    Even if it weren’t full of such objectionable statements as that one, it would still only amount to a desperate, elaborate validation of this damned fish oil hypothesis, not confirmation.

    This post will continue in a moment. Something in the content is stopping it from posting! Just working out what.

     

  18. Tom says

     
    Now to be clear, I do not claim that these are five different sources. There are five links because I’m labouring the point. It is just the one, very good source. He’s a doctor and I’m not, and he has more access to journals than I do, so maybe on reflection you should flame him instead of me. He likes it, anyway!
    Update: There are only two links, after all. I suspect that this website simply doesn’t allow links from ‘bad science dot net’. If you can see this, I was probably right! to get the others just do what I did. I typed ‘badscience omega 3′ into Google.
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2010/jun/05/bad-science-omega3-fish-oil
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/2006/oct/07/badscience.comment
    And no, I don’t mention Ben Goldacre being a doctor in order to say, “Therefore he is right.” I judge his authority in many ways, none so simple. If another doctor disagrees with him, I won’t be suddenly confused. I will scrutinise what they say, just as much as I do for Ben Goldacre.
    My current preconception is that they would fail to convince me!
     

    • Chris Kresser says

      Tom: I approved a couple of your comments and spammed the rest. I’m happy to entertain different points of view here, but this isn’t your personal soapbox. If you want one of those, feel free to start your own blog.

  19. Alex S says

    Tom, what is your website?

    Even if I don’t agree, I like to keep up with what people like David H. Freedman, or Ben Goldacre have to say!

  20. Rob says

    Chris,

    Enjoyed reading your article, and appreciate the skepticism. Two questions for you: You stated “Throughout 4-5 million years of hominid evolution, diets were abundant in seafood and other sources of omega-3 long chain fatty acids…”. This really contradicts the paradigms I have of the hunter-gatherers that did not live along a coast. Assuming many of these were migrant groups, is it realistic that they would be able to catch that much seafood as they moved from lake-to-lake or river-to-river? (And if so, I wish they’d passed that knowledge on to me – I have enough trouble catching fish with a rod and reel!).

    You also stated “(Anthropological research) indicates that both ancient and modern hunter-gatherers were free of the modern inflammatory diseases, like heart disease, cancer, and diabetes, that are the primary causes of death and morbidity today.” While the modern examples are intriguing, isn’t it reasonable to think that the average lifespan of our ancient ancestors was such that would make comparisons quite skewed? You are suggesting that a single change “…perhaps more than any other dietary factor, has contributed to the epidemic of modern disease.” Yet the average life expectancy has continued to rise, (almost doubling since the Industrial Revolution). There seem to be too many variables here to use the lack of certain diseases in our ancient ancestors as evidence to support your argument.

    Finally – ha! – please share the magic ratio of olive oil to canola oil mentioned in your article: “One study showed that replacing corn oil with olive oil and canola oil to reach an n-6:n-3 ratio of 4:1 led to a 70% decrease in total mortality.” That’s going to put a big dent in the life insurance business…

  21. Adlok Huuungry says

    Rob,

    I may be slightly off topic, but I thought I’d respond to the lifespan concern in order to help clear up your doubts about the context of the main topic (n-6:n-3 ratios in the diet).
    I’ve recently read a bit about the oft referenced “Lifespan Issue” when discussing our pre-agricultural ancestors. Many of us assume that the average life span (more specifically Average Life Expectancy At Birth) of around 35 – 38 of pre-historic people means 35 – 38 represented ripe old age. This simply is not the case. Average life span is heavily skewed by infant and child death (of which there was much more). When measuring Average Life Expectancy at age 15, for example, many modern hunter gatherers, and those ancient ones for which such data is attainable, match or exceed modern industrial people; and that all without the help of modern sanitation, antibiotics, dental care, etc.
    I do wish I could point to all the relevant sources for this point, but I cannot a this time, so I encourage you to take what i say with a grain of salt and look into it when/if you can. I believe you will find that my main point stands up to scrutiny.

  22. Nigel - Africa says

    I will go with chris’ research conclusions as I have seen in this part of the world what over consumption does to people and that actually grilled meats and fishes along with lots of dark & green vegetables boiled or cooked with very little oil is most healthy. Yes I can see how consuming more n6 oils will negate the effects of n3 body assimilation effects. I have 2 people who are aged 90 and have used just the above formula above that I am talking about in confidently going with Chris here. In fact the 2 subjects that I have been observing seem to be doing something else very unique that I see more the reason that they are bright, fully functional and standing walking human beings still very much contributing to society and a total inspiration to me. I won’t divulge the secret of their longevity but you are free to email me if you like..well done Chris!!

  23. Anonymous says

    What is the difference between Fish Oil with Omega-3 and Omega-3 and Omega-6. Which is better. I am confused.

  24. says

    Great information! I’d learned about the imbalance of fats and inflammation in my Nutrition Masters program, and appreciate the depth of information you presented. What is the best strategy for decreasing inflammation – increase omega-3, decrease omega-6 or both?

  25. says

    This is the right blog for anyone who wants to find out about this topic. You realize so much its almost hard to argue with you (not that I actually would want…HaHa). You definitely put a new spin on a topic thats been written about for years. Great stuff, just great!

  26. Rosane says

    “The best fats to consume and cook with are those that are the most saturated: butter, coconut oil, ghee, tallow, duck & goose fat. Pretty much the opposite of what we’ve been told.”

    I’m so confused now. Aren’t saturated fats bad for you? I understand that to cook with it’s best to use saturated fat, as the smoke point in vegetable oils can be lower than the cooking one, thus harmful by creating more free radicals. Not to mention they could cause an imbalance in the omega 3 and 6 ratio. However, consuming saturated fats, I thought, would be s different matter, giving room, in this case, to monounsaturated fats, like olive oil, as long as not used for cooking. Could you please clarify that? Am I killing myself and loved ones trying to be healthy?

    • says

      There is no doubt that saturated fats are not as healthy for you as unsaturated. But, they are leaps and bounds better than trans-fats. I believe those will do you in. I try to use as little fat as possible to cook with and have been sticking to cannola. I think the critical question is “how do I get more Omega-3 fatty acids?” We know for a fact that the closer your Omega-6 to omega 3 ratio approaches 1:1, the higher the conversion of ALA to EPA and DHA.

      • Kelly says

        Canola? Or as you spelled it, “cannola”? That’s one of the WORST oils to use, in any fashion, especially cooking with it.

        You also have to consider the fact that most foods, including vegetables, include decent amounts of omega 6.

        As Chris, says, saturated fats are indeed the healthier option over ANY type of unsaturated oil.

  27. says

    For me it’s a truely good perspective. I meet individuals who rather say the things they suppose others wish to hear. Good and well written! I’ll come back to your website without a doubt!

  28. Leah says

    Interesting. Do you know the concentration (in mg) of omega-3’s per gram of grain-fed cattle? grass fed cattle? chicken? Any tips on finding this info would be much appreciated!

    • says

      Leah
      I’d like to take a shot at that question. My tests on strictly grain fed cattle have not yielded much Omega-3 fatty acids. Generally 25 to 40 mg per 4 ounce serving would cover the majority of the cattle we tested for our baselines. When we started feeding our cattle ground flax seed and let them run on grass and away from the dry lot environment, that number soared to 230 mg/ 4 ounce serving. But, our PUFA and MUFA numbers also went up .
      Don Mayse
      Show Me Farms

  29. Eric says

    Chris,

    I eat a good amount of olive oil (3/4 cup 5 days a week) mixed with cider vinegar as a salad dressing. What oil would you suggest I use instead of olive oil?

    • Pone says

      Eric, Macadamia Oil would be a much better monounsaturated fat to use instead of olive oil. Macadamia has very low polyunsaturated fat content. Olive Oil gives a lot of Omega6 when eaten in large amounts.

  30. Patrick says

    Dear Chris,

    A great post as always. Just a short comment regarding “This is illustrated on the following graph, from a 1992 paper by Dr. William Landis”. I believe his name is William Lands. You can just delete this comment later. IT does not add to the discussion.

    My best,
    Patrick

  31. Mik says

    Impressive about all the views from people. I thought this site was so interesting that I sent it on to a few friends. I heard that if you are going to take supplements, then it is better to just take the omega 3. Now I know why.

  32. Peter Povey says

    For those of you confused about good fats and bad fats read Barry Groves brilliant book “Trick and Treat” wherein he methodically lays out the research clearly demonstrating the health value of saturated fat. Basically our bodies lay down mono and saturated fat as an energy store store for times of starvation. In other words given a choice our bodies prefer saturated fat. He also goes on to highlight how polyunsaturated fats particularly omega 6′s are still used to suppress the immune system in transplant operations post surgery !! A carefully kept secret apparently. Page 95 of his book.
    Lots of other good stuff in the book from salt to sunshine.
    Happy Xmas to you all.

  33. says

    Chris
    Love your article. Found your knowledge to be far beyond your contemporaries. But, I would like to bring you up to speed on a small group of us trying to change the lipids profile in beef cattle with very great success. Our cattle are fed a diet rich in ground flax and the results have been terrific . If you would like to see more info on what we are doing you can see more at http://www.borntenderbeef.com .
    Thanks, keep writing. great stuff

    • Hoffe says

      According to Nutrition Data butter would be about 63% saturated, 26% monounsaturated, 3,5% polyunsaturated. Of the polyunsaturated fat about 90% would be Omega 6

  34. robert says

    it is important to note that variations in LA
    intake in the diets of adult humans do not substantially
    affect tissue AA levels; indeed, only about 0.2% dietary
    LA is actually converted to AA (13). Clearly, there is an
    inflammatory component to CHD, but the role of eicosanoids
    per se is not clear, especially when one considers
    that AA (and LA itself) can be converted into a variety of
    anti-inflammatory (eg, epoxyeicosatrienoic acid [14] and
    lipoxin A [15]) as well as pro-inflammatory mediators.
    The balance among all of these metabolites, not to mention
    scores if not hundreds of others, needs to be considered
    before labeling a dietary component as “pro-inflammatory.”
    The n-3 index is indeed a marker of risk for fatal CHD;
    however, it is not the only factor determining risk. Even
    though higher LA diets do slightly lower n-3 index, there
    still are independent cardioprotective actions of LA itself
    (eg, lowering serum cholesterol and possibly improving
    endothelial function and insulin resistance) that could
    more than offset a theoretical reduction in n-3 levels. One
    cannot consider only one CHD risk factor in isolation and ignore the others

  35. Annemarie says

    Hello
    Your article doesn’t talk about hemp seed or hemp oil which has a very good ratio omega 3-6-9. As a vegan I don’t consume fish or fish oil (which extraction has an extremely bad impact on sea life & kills a lot of fish for a tiny bit of oil).

    Hereby a very interesting article on excellent (plant-based/ non aggressive) sources of Omega 3:
    http://www.hippocratesinst.org/2012-09/the-1-2-3s-of-omega-3s

    Kind regards,

  36. Caroline says

    Is it true that omeg-3 helps in reducing forgetfulness. This is my greatest weakness and i wish to know how to resolve it.
    Caroline

    • Evan says

      “(which extraction has an extremely bad impact on sea life & kills a lot of fish for a tiny bit of oil).”
      -
      The extraction of oil from fish has absolutely no bad impact on the biomass of fish. Nearly all commercially available fish oil is extracted from the waste of commercially caught fish. For example when salmon are caught and processed in a cannery. The waste is sent to a local rendering plant where it is turned into fishmeal and fish oil. The fish oil is even used in the boilers 12 to provide heat for processing.

  37. Jonny says

    I’ve study Peskins work and he is right,period. Stephan Guyenet made comments about Peskin WITHOUT READING HIS BOOKS OR HIS WORK. I dare cris or Stephan to email Peskin with there OPINION and he will respond with a real answer. I emailed him about both of your comments and he buried you. I think people are afraid of him because no one will debate him. You guys called him out on his work and should back it up with a debate. I’m sure you’ll lose and realize that he is smarter than all of you.

  38. charles grashow says

    http://jama.jamanetwork.com/article.aspx?articleid=1357266

    Association Between Omega-3 Fatty Acid Supplementation and Risk of Major Cardiovascular Disease Events
    A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis

    Conclusion
    Overall, omega-3 PUFA supplementation was not associated with a lower risk of all-cause mortality, cardiac death, sudden death, myocardial infarction, or stroke based on relative and absolute measures of association.

    http://www.dhaomega3.org/Cardiovascular-Health/DHAEPA-Institute-Comments-on-Recent-Review-Omega-3-Supplementation-and-Cardiovascular-Events

    DHA/EPA INSTITUTE COMMENTS ON RECENT REVIEW: OMEGA-3 SUPPLEMENTATION AND CARDIOVASCULAR EVENTS

    http://www.wholefoodsmagazine.com/columns/vitamin-connection/amid-continuing-reports-fish-oils-effectiveness-flawed-studies-add-confu

    http://www.drkarafitzgerald.com/omega-3-benefits

    FOR THE TWELVE DAYS OF CHRISTMAS MY TRUE LOVE CHALLENGED THE CONCLUSION OF THE 2012 JAMA META-ANALYSIS, WHICH IMPLIED THAT OMEGA 3 FISH OIL WAS BASICALLY USELESS

    Question to Chris – I wonder if “paleo people” worried about omega-3/omega-6 balance or had easy access to omega-3 food sources in northern continental climates?

    • Steven Giardino says

      The study did not take into consideration numerous other factors that play a role in illness. For instance, how high was n-6 in their diets? Did it greatly overwhelm n-3 intake? What about exercise? What about blood glucose levels resulting from simple carb intake? etc. There is a big picture here, and taking a few fish oil caps while changing nothing else will of course have little to no effect.

  39. Old Mike says

    I just want to make sure everyone reads and understands what has happened to our meat supply,since they started to feed corn and soy to the animals. This results in a change in the linoleic acid content of

    the animal fat,which along with veggie oil consumption results in the same type of change in

    human fat. This is not natural to humans,and might be a major cause of our disease.
    Make sure to look at the human fat data.

    Old Mike

    This is data from mice experimental fat diets.

    http://blog.cholesterol-and-health.com/2011/11/this-just-in-infamous-lard-based-high.html

    to the right click on lard.

    http://www.researchdiets.com/opensource-diets/purified-ingredients

    here is some data comparing the old USDA data base to new lard

    http://www.westonaprice.org/blogs/cmasterjohn/2011/11/25/good-lard-bad-lard-what-do-you-get-when-you-cross-a-pig-and-a-coconut/

    this is a real eye opener,Linoleic acid content USA body fat read down to see the graph

    http://perfecthealthdiet.com/2012/02/the-trouble-with-pork-part-2/

    1943 data

    http://www.jbc.org/content/151/2/427.full.pdf

    1960

    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1205373/pdf/biochemj01003-0098.pdf

    some historical points

    http://www.dietheartpublishing.com/diet-heart-timeline

  40. James says

    hi
    read with interest the above article where is the next article

    Also i would like to get a omega 6 / omega 3 ratio test i stay in Scotland any ideas where the nearest place I can get this test is
    thanks

  41. Melissa says

    I notice that you didn’t mention the ratios of omega 6-omega 3′s that olive oil has in it. Can you answer that one?

  42. Christine Regan says

    Great site, very informative thank you. Have you done any research on hemp oil? I recently added a small amount of it to my and my toddler’s diets, mixing a bit into foods and as a vegetable dressing (using it cold). I have read that it is a good source of “balanced” omegas ~ balanced omega 3, 6, etc. Now that I’ve read about your warnings on omega 6 I’m confused now as to whether or not we should be including this in our diets. We don’t consume much of any other source of omega 6, only a little olive oil here and there and whatever omega 6 might be in sesame tahini which we love and eat semi-regualrly (should we cut back on this too?!). Any info on hemp oil would be appreciated! Also I have been supplementing my toddler’s diet with 1/2 tsp (550 total omegas 255 of which is DHA) per day of Nordic Natural’s Children’s DHA from Arctic cod liver oil, any idea if this is a good source of DHA for my child?

  43. anthony weikel says

    Response to Tom and Chris…

    First Tom… Sorry pal, but there is very good scientific evidence that supports the fact EPA one of fish oils two principal components does act to decrease chronic inflammation, working within the cited eicosanoid system to 1) decrease the rate of conversion of ALA ( the principal n-6) to Arachidonic Acid (AA) (the principal pro inflammatory eicosanoid) and 2) to competitively inhibit the pro inflammatory actions of AA on the COX and LOX cell and nuclear membrane receptors..

    The important thing about the “fish oil” skeptics, is they do not take into account the fact that EPA’s effects are dose related, and the dose depends on the amount of n-6s and AA. The crucial concept is the AA/EPA ratio…Dietary supplement fish oil tabs on average contain about 175mg of EPA/gm ..The estimated amount of EPA require to reach a 4/1, AA/EPA ratio is estimated at between 4-5 gm EPA daily…So a person taking a gm of “fish oil” a day is simply no where near the required dosage…

    Studies, JELIS and GISSI both showed reduced cardiovascular disease events for patients on higher doses of EPA vs placebo…More importantly chronic .degenerative disease incidences line up very well with the AA/EPA ratio within the populations..Check out atherosclerosis in the Japanese population…

    A little knowledge can get you int a lot of trouble…Most of the fish oil critics are bad scientists..

  44. anthony weikel says

    Re Krill Oil…

    Someone posted that Krill oil is more powerful (or words to the effect) than fish oil..On the NEPT site there was (is) a study posted. A study reported in an “alternative medicine” journal. Though I am an MD. I am not a journal snob and try to keep reasoning and thought above rank or credential..Unfortunately, even though the data present would seem to indicate Krill Oil was vastly superior to fish oil in its abilities to lower trigs, maintain and lower LDL-C (bad cholesterol)..the data was not creditable…

    How can I say that???…Well there is a formula in blood lipid measurements that accurately describes the correct ratios of Trigs, and the various cholesterol fractions in the blood..It is called the Friedewald Equation, and it has been tested, and in one paper over 29,000 lab tests confirmed its accuracy. The disturbing thing about the reported Krill paper was the reported results did not line up with the Friedewald equation…(remember Krill oil is acting on the lipid panels, and even if effects were different from fish oil, the lipid contents still must conform to the ratios, and totals)…Furthermore all the aberrant results always erred on the side that made Krill oil look better than fish oil..The conclusion is the results were fudged.

    Krill oil is phosphorylated and the company claims this gives increased benefits and higher GI absorption levels, similar claim is made in some of the fish oils..These claims to not really check out..So if you are spending extra to get Krill Oil, you are just paying more for your EPA and DHA…

    A side note to Chis…DHA is really not as important as EPA in the control of chronic inflammation..it is true DHA can make some weak resolvins, but DHA is larger and specifically different enough in molecular structure from both AA and EPA that it is not very involved in the day to day control of chronic inflammation..DHA’s role is mainly structural in the brain and other cell membranes..

    • Kelly says

      I read on another site — notably one that sells high-EPA fish oil — that we need much less DHA in relation to EPA because the half life of DHA is something like 2 years — so it stays in the brain, and perhaps builds up to higher levels — compared to EPA, which they say has a short half life of something like several days.

      Does anyone know if this is true?

  45. veggiedude says

    Dr. Michael Greger’s lecture from 2003 says everything this article is saying. If you are vegan, and want a vegans point of view, check out his lecture…

  46. dan says

    Hey Chris. I was checking out a video on lecturepad about PUFA intake and SHD risk. He make’s a pretty compelling argument for PUFA consumption as Heart protective. I’d love to get your opinion on this. The lecture should be on the link below. The title of the video lecture is N6 Fatty Acids harmful or helpful if the link doesn’t take you straight there. There’s also some great stuff on lipid metabolism on that site also…Im sure you’ve seen it though :) cheers

    http://www.lecturepad.org/index.php/cardiovascular/38-treatment-prevention/1048-n-6-fatty-acids-harmful-or-helpful-n6n3-rations-useful-or-not

  47. Clare says

    Chris et al
    We do not consume processed pre packaged foods, nor do we buy supermarket ready meals etc. I cook from scratch. No breakfast cereals, no pasta, no rice, no flours (as in baked foods) are eaten. We are Omnivores, and eat protein of some source with every meal, plus non starchy vegetables, salads etc. Minimal fruit (exception Avo’s and a few berries) is consumed. Therefore we are low in fructose as well.

    Dairy is minimal….. goat yoghurt and fresh cream and butter…… in small amounts

    I use EV Coconut oil or animal fat to cook with, butter on vegetables. Husband makes his own mayo 50/50 CO/EVO

    Question is….. are we deficient in n-6′s?

    Both of us are diet controlled T2DM, hence the LCHF approach – it works!
    Add chia seed and hemp seed and ground flax seed to my daily 100g yoghurt.

    We take a fish oil capsule a day, eat fresh salmon maybe once each week, but still suffer from extreme inflammation. Vascular CVD and vasculitis……
    Where are we going wrong? Please don’t tell me to talk this out with my GP…. nutrition is not their modus operandi :-)

    I read all the information I can get hold of about inflammation — PEG -1′s versus PEG-2′s

    Help is appreciated.

    • Mel says

      Hi Clare,

      It sounds like you and your husband have a great eatstyle – I don’t like to say diet! I actually eat low(er) carb myself. What are you and your husband’s A1C’s? Do you bake with a lot of almond flour? I’ve read that almond flour is high in Omega-6… Maybe that could be a culprit?

  48. says

    Hi Clare, I’ve read in Dr. Steve ILardi’s book ‘The Depression Cure’ a whole chapter on omega 3 and 6 etc.
    Now, he says there is GLA omega 6 (gamma linolenic acid) which is a nice anti-inflammatory – thing is if you’re having lots of EPA from fish etc. it can cut back production of GLA.
    So you need something like oatmeal- the slow cook stuff not intant- has lots of it- I think hemp oil too? check this out first though
    hope this helps :-)

  49. Chris says

    HI,

    We started our 8 year old on Eye Q (http://www.equazen.com/default.aspx?pid=329) and are on the first month where they say to take 6 caps a day. I’m not sure if this is related, hope you can help, but quite recently, within the last week I’d say (week 3 of the 1st month) – the following is happening and I’d like to know if you think it’s related to the capsules, or just an 8 year old being and 8 year old:

    1) Complaining about pain in hands and legs (sound arthritic by how he describes it) – we thought it could be growing pains.

    2) Moodiness, anger, and what seems to be some depression.

    This has happened quite quickly, usually he’s a great kid – we put him on this stuff to help him with concentration as we found although he’s very bright and one of the top students in his class, he was not able to focus sometimes and get distracted easily, so we thought the product would help that.

    In your experience, in just 2-3 week, could this stuff be the cause of his body aches and change in personality?

    Thanks

  50. howard says

    I live on the coast of australia and eat fish six nights a week not fried in any oil (nonstick pan) . Pizza on the seventh night. No need 4 fish oil.

    • jd says

      Non-stick pans contain a cancer causing chemical that transfers slowly over time into your food. You should use cast iron with a splash of canola.

      • John says

        This is only true for non stick using PFOE and similar. Ceramic coatings and the new diamond like film coatings are non toxic and metal utensil save. They can be found on many stainless steel and cast iron products. Newer research has shown that DLC’s (diamond like compounds) are dense enough to seal the surfaces and prevent leaching of metals from copper and aluminum cookware.
        Modern ceramic and DLC nonstick surfaced are not you grannies poison.

  51. Pone says

    This article has an interesting statement that “the ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 matters, but so does the total amount of each.”

    Assume that somehow we manage to get our Omega-3 to Omega-6 balance closer to the ideal 1:1 profile. In that case, what is the maximum amount of Omega-6 that we are allowed to ingest, and what is the reason for that limitation?

  52. duke says

    Chris, I am all confused. Few months ago there was a report based researched people who consumed high level of omega-3 had high risk of prostate cancer compared to people who consumed high level of omega-6. Please comment on that. Also, can you please advise daily recommended intake of omega 3 and 6 for adult.

  53. Anthony Weikel MD says

    I am a practicing MD. I have served as a clinical adviser to research scientists at Harvard Med School working on novel methods of controlling systemic inflammation.

    I basically agree with all your points regarding the health issues created by our unhealthy American diet which is too high in omega6s and high glycemic index carbohydrates. This is clearly the nations number one health issue and leads not only to atherosclerotic vascular disease and Type2Diabetes, but a whole spectrum of chronic degenerative diseases, allergies and auto immune disorders.

    Where I do not agree is on the subject of the importance of DHA vs EPA..EPA due to its structural similarity to arachidonic acid (AA) can act at the same cell and nuclear membrane receptors, the COX and LOX receptors as AA. AA which is derived from omega6s is the most important promoter of chronic systemic inflammation. EPA, but not DHA competes for these membrane receptors with the general action of decreasing over all inflammation. EPA also actively influences t5he PPAR-gamma nuclear membrane receptors which also decreases inflammation.

    Because our diets as you point out are so high in n-6s, we need a great deal of EPA. Unfortunately if you try to obtain therapeutic levels of EPA using regular fish oil, you will consume too much DHA which is the portion of fish oil which causes the unpleasant GI effects. You need to either modify your diet or take a more pure form of EPA

    respectfully…A.M. Weikel MD

    • pone says

      Anthony, I have read the studies by biochemists like William Lands that agree with your comments about Omega-3 and Omega-6 competing for the same receptors. So the implication of that is to increase Omega-3 to overpower the Omega-6.

      Doesn’t that however ignore the fact that BOTH Omega-3 and Omega-6 are highly unstable polyunsaturated fats that are subject to oxidation. The solution proposed by the AHA – to consume more Omega-3 to offset our overdose of Omega-6 – therefore subjects us to even more oxidative stress than Omega-6 alone would.

      Wouldn’t the much more conservative strategy be to reduce dietary consumption of Omega-6, thereby reducing the need for large doses of Omega-3, and put these two oils into their correct relative balance and at quantities more like the trace requirements the body actually has?

      • anthony weikel says

        Dear Pone..

        You ask, why not just cut down on our n-6 consumption? Well certainly that would do the trick, although you still need EPA. Cutting down on n-6s is not a practical solution for people living in the USA. Our entire food delivery system..ie supermarkets, rely on n-6s. Processed foods have been seed oil dependent since the 1940s. Adding seed oil fraction which is relatively resistant to oxidation, adds flavor and increases shelf life. Prior to the the development of seed oil presses, there were no supermarkets, because food products were too unstable.

        There is also another issue besides n-6 consumption which are high glycemic index carbs.
        Rapid absorption of sugars causes blood sugar spikes which triggers insulin release. Insulin favors the AA pathway accelerating the rate and percentage conversion of n-6s to AA which increases systemic inflammation. Bottom line, in the USA we need to consume more EPA.

        Suggest reading material written by Dr. Bernard Sears..

        respectfully A Weikel.

        • Ken says

          I’ve read Dr. Sears’s books. He certainly makes the case for reducing foods that spike insulin and increasing intake of EPA in controlling AA production. But his protocol seems to give no weight to the beneficial aspects of what he calls the “bad” ecosanoids. Following his protocol, especially his recommendation of 7.5 grams of Omega 3s in extreme cases, would greatly distort the “normal” (optimal?) percentage of n-3s in cell membranes, I assume. Could you comment on this?

  54. George says

    I agree wholly with Pone. This is truly a 2014, logical, rational and level headed thinking that we all should employ.

    I hope 2014 brings with it common sense, ethical food and agriculture company’s as well as sound economic policy.

    god speed to us all

    • pone says

      George, when I have tried to make the same remarks about Omega-6 in public forums before, I get hit by an onslaught of hate mail from medical practitioners trying to defend the AHA’s many studies on Omega-6 lowering heart lipids.

      The point the biochemists make in response is that the AHA studies with Omega-6 also use Omega-3, thus making causality to Omega-6 impossible to establish. A superb article summarizing both sides of this argument fairly is here:
      http://www.asbmb.org/asbmbtoday/asbmbtoday_article.aspx?id=18365

      If I already posted that link, sorry I forgot. :)

      Even if there is only 40% chance the biochemists are right, why take the chance? I’m increasing my monounsaturated intake, lowering my saturated, and lowering to trace levels my Omega-6 (which is HARD HARD HARD to do given modern food practices).

  55. Bob Greene says

    Delighted to find a well-researched blog discussing omega 3 to 6 ratios, their background history, as well as modern sources of omega 3 fatty acids.

    Although Chris acknowledges the overwhelming advantage of seafood over plant-sourced omega3, we are left with a serious dilemma– fish bear an ever greater toxic burden. To obtain adequate amounts of long-chain omega3 fatty acids, we are forced to eat not only toxins naturally present with fish, but industrial toxins like mercury, lead, PCBs and even chlordane.

    Our alternative to seafood is endogenous conversion of plant-sourced, short-chain omega3 fatty acids. Since the human history does not involve ready access to seafood at all locations, humans survived on alternative sources of essential fatty acids. There may have been a native conversion ability to some degree, in particular populations. So, one potentially useful vein of research is the reason humans vary individually on their omega3 to 6 conversion ability– enzymes appropriate to the conversion are not evenly distributed in the population.

    For most of us, lacking that conversion ability means we can obtain our DHA and EPA in complete safety from only molecularly-distilled fish oil. And to obtain a truly substantial amount of DHA and EFA by supplement not only requires ingestion of a considerable amount of oil, but is quite expensive.

    Perhaps the better approach– hopefully made practical by research– is to identify and provide by oral supplement the enzymes needed to increase omega3 to 6 conversion efficiency with plant sources, such as flaxseed. At some later point, perhaps genetic engineering can splice the genes required to make the conversion “naturally”.

    • Bob Greene says

      One of the hazards of editing late at night is to see what is not there. Here are two corrections–

      “So, one potentially useful vein of research is to explore the reason humans vary individually on their omega3 short-chain to long-chain conversion ability”

      and this

      “is to identify and provide by oral supplement the enzymes needed to increase omega3 short-chain to long-chain conversion efficiency with plant sources, such as flaxseed. “

  56. says

    Why not test your fatty acid balance?
    To see if your diet or Product works?
    There is a dry blod sample test and I know how to get an extensive 30 pages test for free. You are welcome to connect with me on facebook to get mere Info.

  57. Ken says

    Apparently the World Health Organization endorses an n-6 to n-3 ratio of 4:1. The researchers at http://www.pkprotocol.com also use this ratio in their treatment protocols, based on research by Yehuda, et. al. This ratio, of course, differs sharply from your target ratio. Chris, could you comment on this?

  58. says

    Are all omega-6 fatty acids pro-inflammatory?
    During a discussion with a doctor( chemist) the following question came up. Why are all n-6 fatty acids “evil” if not all of them are actually pro-inflammatory. He suggested that the ration between aracidonic acid and EPA would be a better parameter than n-6/n-3.
    What are your thoughts on that?

  59. Tanya says

    Question -
    I eat what I call an “adapted Paleo” diet. (I have not read your book, but was very excited to see some of my beliefs validated on your blog and want to get to the book). The question is, when we eat this way, should we still take simply Omega-3 supplements? Or should we be moving toward a 3/6/9 supplement?

  60. Ron Carlson says

    Can you tell me if the information given here is based on recent studies?By recent I mean within the last 12-24 months.Thank you

  61. Johan Lindén says

    It doesn’t seem like Chris is answering comments here, but other readers might be interested in what a scientific study says about PUFA, fatty liver and inflammation.

    I think there’s a big dose of confirmation bias here when Chris only links to studies confirming his believes.

    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22492369

    Note that trial was done with overweight people.

  62. rose says

    saturated fats any day= margarine was ok, no health probs’ when Napoleon 111 patented it-twas made with animal fat. became dangerous and a killer when it switched away from animal fats to make it cheaper to produce,and abused plant oils and produced trans-fats-poison.. Now what about Coconut Oil – saturated-but a Medium Chain Triglycerite – Butter-Short Chain Triglycerite -Goose fate-medium chain. I suggest you find out for yourselves about the effects of Long-medium and short chain fats.

  63. says

    Ok, is it fair to say that this article’s thesis is that it’s healthier to balance your omega 3-6. If thats it, then it would also be fair to say any oil is good to cook with as long as you are balancing the other oils with what you intake. Example cooking your fish in an olive oil and a small amount of butter. Would it also be fair to say that every person’s body breaks down fat differently or at different rates? With all the variables in play I find it to difficult to wrap my head around the exact ballance. For the average Joe like myself, I think its best to do ourselves a favor and limit your fats and carbs and get more of your calories from protien and dont worry about what type of fats you are eating as long as you are limiting them. It’s 100% proven that low fat, low carbs, High protien diet works. (Caveman diet, Atkins diet) Then again.. the cancer flock jumps on these diets as well.. as everything causes cancer..go figure.

  64. Susan says

    So many posts I can’t tell if this question has been answered yet, is sesame oil considered an industrial oil like corn and canola etc?. thanks

  65. says

    I too wonder what the asterisk by “Fish” is for. My understanding is that fish does contain some amount of naturally occurring omega 6. So I am surprise to see fish oil contains 0% omega 6.

    I just checked Wikipedia and it says this on fish oil: “The most widely available dietary source of EPA and DHA is cold water oily fish, such as salmon, herring, mackerel, anchovies, and sardines. Oils from these fish have a profile of around seven times as much omega-3 oils as omega-6 oils”

    So this suggests fish does contain some omega 6.

    What the asterisk might indicate is that fish oil capsules might contain little or no omega 6 if the omega 3 in the capsule is concentrated to a high level.

    Such fish oil of course would be of very high quality

  66. Laurie says

    I have found a great oil that contains everything needed it is new to the USA. I had myself tested first. my migrants are gone and I’m overall feeling better.

  67. says

    My experience with omega 6: have you ever heard about ‘Primrose OIL’? It was was prescribed to me by my doctor (never mind what for), who said to take 1000 mg a day. Just after I started taking it as prescribed, I’ve noticed some skin changes, rashes, spots, that recently developed drastically. I blamed it on too much pizza:) Today, I decided to do a little research and I found out that primrose oil contains big doses of Omega 6 and in my case, I don’t really have too much Omega 3, as I don’t eat fish. So, all in all, I decided to stop taking the primerose oil. I know that this kind of natural medicine is becoming more popular and maybe it helps some but after my last experiences I start trusting Doctor Google more than regular ones..

  68. Alexandria Lee says

    Hey! I was 35kg 13 months ago, I suffer from anorexia. I now weigh 44kg. I eat 2-4 avocado’s a day.. they’re high in omega 6.. So how come I’m yet to gain loads of weight?? I do eat salmon, flaxseed oil, loads of quinoa and a fair bit of omega 3 but I certainly do not think it would outweigh the amount of omega 6 in my diet. My diet is also high healthy low gi carbohydrates.

  69. Aritza says

    Hello,
    My cardiologist tells me that Omega 6′s are inflammatory to the heart. I drink Hemp milk because it’s about the only alternative milk that I can tolerate, but it has a 1:4 ratio of Omega 3′s (1200 mg) to Omega 6′s (3800 mg). Are Omega 6′s from plant sources less harmful than other sources? Is there a distinction? I’m running out of alternative milk options — I have tried several others that don’t agree with me.
    Thanks,
    Aritza

    • says

      Why drink milk at all? For 1000′s of years all we had was water, and it seems to do the job. Just stick to a mostly vegetarian diet and you will put your cardiologist out of business. Vegetable based Omega’s (evening primrose, flax seed, pumpkin seed, safflower oil) are all good in their raw, unprocessed form.

  70. Mary says

    Hi Chris

    I love your blog.

    I’m wondering if homemade almond milk would have the high PUF’s especially as the fibre has been strained.

    I was making almond flour with the fibre but have stopped doing this since reading about the high 6 to 3 omega ratio.

  71. dan says

    I just started eating flax seeds, and my short-term memory suddenly started working again. I could actually feel something happening in my head, and then I was no longer forgetting stuff. I used to do things like walk into a room, and forget why I went there in the first place. I’m guessing it’s because I rebalanced my omega 3′s and 6′s, which is what I was trying to accomplish with the flax seeds.

  72. pedro says

    brill site, especially the comments and info.
    we live in spain and have our own olive trees for oil.
    we cook with it and as is on salads etc.
    Lot said about olive oil which is a subject of its own but the ‘olive oil in moderation’ needs some debate so here is a website to clarify how good it is ( by comparison to others)
    .http://www.aromadictionary.com/oliveoilfaq.html#but%20the%20label%20says%20it%27s%20cold%20pressed
    just had 10 days in UK with almost no olive oil and my arthritis aches are slowly coming back ( just coincidence?)

  73. says

    I just stumbled across this thread and some basic inaccuracies should be addressed. Omega-6 in its raw, unprocessed form is not the enemy here. The basic problem is the processing which it undergoes. Google vegetable oil processing (corn or canola, soya etc.) it will make you sick. The Omega-6 is actually way more important than Omega-3 for cellular function. Our cell membranes are on average 86% Omega-6 and 14% Omega-3, but it varies depending on cell type (there is virtually no Omega-3 in our skin and only 1% in our brain). Incorporating improper, processed Omega-6 into our cell membranes reduces the rate at which oxygen can cross the cell membrane, leading to anaerobic metabolism, rising acidity levels, inflammation, heart disease and cancer. DHA and EPA are longer chain fatty acids that are highly oxidizable due to there level of unsaturation. They are destroyed by the stomach acid (fishy burps anybody?) and cause a problem for most people. They are not appropriate dietary supplements for most people (if not all).

  74. Jessica says

    I am in school to become a dietitian and just want to say that this article and especially the comments blew my mind. I never knew anything about omega 6 fatty acids and I hope that in the next few years I will have just half the knowledge I see here about the chemical break down of foods. Thank you to all!

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