An Update on Omega 6 PUFAs

An Update on Omega-6 PUFAs

by Chris Kresser

Last updated on

omega-6 nuts
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Advice to increase omega-3 fatty acid consumption and decrease omega-6 consumption is widespread in health communities and the popular press. But is it omega-6 that’s the problem, or just how we cook omega-6-rich foods? Read on to learn about the benefits of whole foods high in omega-6 and the negative effects of industrial seed oils on human health.

Omega-6 is a type of polyunsaturated fatty acid (PUFA) that is essential to human health. In recent decades, however, consumption of omega-6 PUFAs has skyrocketed in developed countries (1), paralleling the dramatic increase in modern chronic disease. This has led many to vilify all forms of omega-6.

I wrote several articles on omega-6 years ago, including “How too much omega-6 and not enough omega-3 is making us sick” and “How much omega-3 is enough? That depends on omega-6.” Lots of new research has been published since then, and it’s important to constantly incorporate new information coming out in the medical literature. This article will thus serve as an update on my previous articles, this time focusing on the source of omega-6.

Omega-6 is not a problem in fresh, whole foods

Today, most consumption of PUFAs is dominated by vegetable oils from soybeans, corn, and sunflower. Before these industrial seed oils were readily available, most of our omega-6 consumption was from fresh, whole foods like nuts, seeds, and pastured meats.

Omega-6 has largely all been grouped together, regardless of the source. But whole-food sources of omega-6 also come packaged with other nutrients like dietary fiber (2), folic acid, niacin, tocopherols, vitamin B6, calcium, magnesium, potassium, phytosterols, polyphenols, vitamin E, and more. Some of these nutrients, like magnesium and vitamin E, have been shown to protect unstable omega-6 fatty acids from being oxidized (3).

Epidemiological evidence supports the idea that different sources of omega-6 might have different effects on health. Nuts and seeds contain large amounts of omega-6, yet are consistently negatively associated with cardiovascular disease (4). A pooled analysis of four prospective studies with follow-up time ranging from six to 18 years found that nut consumption resulted in a 37 percent reduction in cardiovascular-related mortality (5). Nut consumption has also been shown to reduce inflammation (6) and may also reduce risk of type 2 diabetes (7) and cancer (8).

Context does matter, though, and one situation where whole-food omega-6 could potentially become an issue is in people with low intake of omega-3 fatty acids (9). Short-chain omega-6 and omega-3 PUFAs directly compete for the desaturase and elongase enzymes that convert them to their long-chain derivatives. This means that excess omega-6 in the form of linoleic acid may inhibit the conversion of omega-3 alpha-linoleic acid into its long-chain derivatives, EPA and DHA (10). EPA and DHA are components of healthy cell membranes and are particularly important for cardiovascular and neurological health (11, 12). Luckily, as long as we eat adequate pre-formed EPA and DHA in the form of fatty fish, we effectively bypass this issue and can eat whole-food omega-6 without much tribulation.

Should you avoid whole foods high in omega-6?

What is the problem? Rancid vegetable oils.

The more concerning form of omega-6 is in vegetable oils. Repeated heating of vegetable oils is common practice in the food industry, particularly in large deep-fryers, because it significantly reduces the cost of food preparation. Instead of having to refill their deep-fryers with oil every day, many restaurants add just enough to top it off from the day before, only replacing the entire batch every few days or weeks.

In deep-fat frying, oil is heated to temperatures greater than 400 degrees Fahrenheit, while also being exposed to moisture and air. This causes thermal lipid oxidation, resulting in the formation of polar compounds and yielding new chemical functional groups that deposit in the cooking oil (13). Repeated heating also degrades the natural antioxidant vitamin E (14), which normally protects fatty acids against lipid oxidation.

Several European countries now have national food laws that prohibit reuse of an oil after it exceeds a certain polar compound content level (15). The U.S. has no such regulations (16). However, even the European laws overlook secondary oxidation compounds, which may also be harmful to human health and are not as well studied.

The effects of repeatedly heated oil on human health

Consuming heated vegetable oils has been associated with CVD risk (17), and there is a direct relationship between CVD risk and consumption of cooking oil polar compounds (18). Regular consumption of repeatedly heated vegetable oil has been shown to increase blood pressure (19), decrease nitric oxide (20), and increase total cholesterol (21).

Repeatedly heated oil can also cause vascular inflammation and changes to vasculature that predispose to atherosclerosis (22). Studies have shown that oxidized LDL is much more important than total LDL level at determining atherosclerotic risk (23). Repeatedly heated oil has been shown to increase levels of oxidative stress in the body, including levels of oxidized LDL.

So if the problem is high heat, can unheated canola, soybean, or sunflower oil be a part of a healthy diet? To answer this question, we really need to understand how these oils are made.

What about unheated vegetable oils?

There are three ways that oils are commonly extracted from their source:

  1. Rendering: this method uses heat only
  2. Chemicals: this method uses a solvent (usually hexane) and then subsequent heating to evaporate off the solvent
  3. Press it out: this method is purely mechanical. These oils are commonly labeled as “cold-pressed” or “expeller pressed.”

The majority of oils high in omega-6 PUFAs are produced using the second method. This means that even if you don’t heat your vegetable oil during cooking, it has likely already been heated long before it made its way to the supermarket. It may also have trace amounts of solvent remaining (24). After this extraction process, many oils are further refined, removing even more nutrients (25).

The ultimate result? Energy-dense, nutrient-poor oils. The intense heating used during extraction results in the oxidation of fats and the loss of many beneficial carotenoids, tocopherols, and sterols. Even if you choose a cold-pressed seed oil, you’d still be better off choosing a more nutrient-dense and flavorful option like olive oil or coconut oil.

Conclusions

Given what we’ve learned, here are a few practical tips for modulating your omega-6 intake:

  • Eat real food. Don’t fear the naturally occurring omega-6 in nuts, seeds, pastured meat, and other whole foods, especially if you are eating adequate amounts of omega-3 fatty acids. They are considered essential fatty acids, after all, so you do need some in your diet.
  • Avoid industrial seed oils. Nix these nutrient-poor choices in favor of more nutritious and flavorful cooking fats like olive oil, coconut oil, ghee, and other pastured animal fats. Fats with higher saturated fatty acid content tend to have higher smoke points.
  • Don’t go overboard with the nut flours. This sort of goes along with “eat real food.” While nut flours can be a great substitute for wheat flour in baked goods, they are easy to eat in large quantities, and the omega-6 fatty acids in these have the potential to be oxidized with heating. Switch it up with coconut flour or cassava flour.
  1. Eat pre-formed EPA and DHA. Consuming cold-water fatty fish is a good idea for everybody, but it’s especially important for people that have diets high in omega-6 fats.

Now I’d like to hear your thoughts. Did you shy away from nuts and seeds because of the omega-6 content? Do you avoid industrial seed oils? What are your favorite cooking fats? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

105 Comments

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  1. Hey Chris

    Great post, as always. I stir completely clear of seed oils, only coconut oil, butter and olive oil in my house, oopps , not forgetting the bacon and duck fat 🙂

    Nuts and seeds, I eat a few, but maybe only once a week or less. Not really worried on the O6 content on those, I think replacing all the processed and rancid seed oils, and eating zero modern processed foods likely takes care of the O3/6 ratio pretty nicely.

    I’m with you on taking fish oil and eating oily fish if one is still eating those Omega 6 laden foods and oils, but for the average Joe, eating a standard western diet, are a couple of helpings of mackerel and some fish oil capsules really going to make much of a difference in battling inflammation etc? I mean, how many pills would you have to pop to get those ratios back into a sensible place? 🙂

  2. It’s easy to go overboard with nuts as they’re delicious, and that’s my concern. I do not eat fish often – because of toxic compounds accumulate easily in their cells. And water they’re living in is – well – just in very bad condition (all over the world…). What to do then? Resign from nuts (I mean reduce rather) or deny obvious dangers of fish consumption? Is there another way?

  3. Omega 6 fatty acids are superior when they are consumed from raw FRESH whole plant foods and everyone will understand in time.

    Some people may feel better health wise with more Omega 3 fatty acids but I do not. Adrenic Acid and Arachidonic Acid are far superior than DHA and EPA for myself. My cursive handwriting is elegant, efficient and legible when consuming a lot more Omega 6’s than Omega 3’s. All from quality raw FRESH non-rancid whole plant nuts and oily seeds. While consuming a lot of Omega 3’s leads to my cursive handwriting to become too fast, sloppy and quite illegible as if I should be writing an Asian language.

    There is also a lot of poor quality rancid raw nuts and oily seeds that have been shelled and stored for far too long by distributors before being sold to stores for resale. We need to go back in time when we use to grow and shell nuts as needed.

    Some interesting research showing the potential of Omega 6 fatty acids:
    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24844257
    http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1016/S0014-5793(04)00246-7/pdf

  4. I have not limited my nut or seed consumption but have increased vegetables and fish. What do you think about avocado oil?

  5. I have heard that taking calcium supplements may contribute to Alzheimer’s or dementia after menopause. What do you say about this?

  6. Good information.
    I’m still concerned about phytates though.
    I was talking to a biochemist who had done research on brazil nuts and selenium, he came to the conclusion that taking a supplement was better than eating brazil nuts because the selenium was so poorly absorbed (he used bioavailable) due to the anti nutrient content.
    Maybe some information on soaking and redrying nuts would be helpful.
    I have to say nuts have been invaluable in terms of readjusting to primal/paleo but have found my apetite and need for them waned as my blood glucose control improved.

    • Tanya,

      The best way to reduce the phytates in nuts is to soak them in salt water. We put 4 cups of nuts in a mason jar, 1 tbls of Himalayan pink salt, and cover the nuts with filtered water. Let them set for at least 6 hours, then pour off the salt water, rinse, and put in a dehydrator for 24 hours, at no more than 145 degrees.

  7. I’m glad you brought this up because I have been trying to figure out what to do..:I have Sjogrens and I recently read some studies showing that supplementing with GLA (omega 6) is actually helpful to the eyes and joints in people with Sjogrens. So I ordered a bottle Nordic GLA, which is from borage oil. I took it along with my Omega 3 supplement and then started wondering if I was doing the right thing by actually adding more omega 6 to my body. So I haven’t taken it again and figured I need to do more research in deciding if this is good for me or not. Any thoughts or info would be greatly appreciated!!

    • I used to have very dry eyes and was prescribed eye drops – very common, I suppose. Then my mouth was so dry I would wake up in the morning with one side of my tongue stuck to the inside of my lower teeth. It became so bad that the surface of my tongue came away leaving a shiny area. At this point I was tested for Sjogrens. The results came back negative, but my doctor suggested taking Evening Primrose Oil. I also took a good Cod Liver Oil. This has been very helpful. Prior to this I had been taking what could be called a balanced Omega 3/6 supplement – a good brand – along with a good diet, but it wasn’t right for me personally.

  8. I would like to ask about using bacon grease for frying. What do you think? Of course we know about nitrates and they’re not good. I like bacon fat for frying my grass fed beef or beef fat from my bone broth. For all other frying I use coconut oil

    • In preference to your nitrate comment, have you read this article: https://chriskresser.com/the-nitrate-and-nitrite-myth-another-reason-not-to-fear-bacon/?

      I’m ALSO curious about how oxidized the fat from bacon get when its heated high the first time and then reheated, especially since so many people just keep bacon fat on their counter, sometimes in an open container to get even more oxidized. Animal fats seem a little more special though and more dependable than PUFAs as far as oxidation, I mean for centuries people have been keeping animal fats unrefrigerated, and often in open containers. Using animal fats is also a traditional way of preserving foods.

          • Well, pete, considering that the first widely used modern refrigeration system was released sometime in the early 1900’s, the typical household before then would not have been able to “refrigerate” anything… duh… 😉

            • there’s a recipe for pemmican on MSN somewhere. ground smoked meat, pulverized blueberries and rendered beef tallow. keeps for years at ambient temp

              • Sure,animal fat has been rendered for centuries,usually for making soap or candles but John didn’t mention rendering – I can’t find any historical references for storing animal fat for edible purposes..makes sense,as without rendering,the fat would go rancid.

          • I think you’ll find ghee doesn’t need to be refrigerated. Don’t know how widely used it has been among traditional people though. I guess the fats people have used will vary throughout the world. The Weston A Price site would likely have that sort of information. I make ghee myself and use it regularly for frying and roasting, along with coconut oil. I also save the fat from roasted meat. Only use olive oil to drizzle on foods, dressings, etc. Really not sure about the omega 3/6 balance,

  9. Lots of people have been commenting on the omega-6:omega-3 ratio but this article along with things I’ve heard Chris Masterjohn say is that the ratio isn’t that important. Really, it’s more about the quality of the PUFAs and whether or not they are oxidized (which pretty much all nut and seed oils are just from the process of extracting them)

    But what I wish the article would have mentioned is the quality and quantity of omega-6 PUFAs in conventional meats compared to pastured meats. It makes me wonder if it’s the omega-6 ratio that’s an issue in conventional meat really or if it’s all the other aspects of conventional meat that makes it unhealth.

  10. Chris,

    Thank you for a breath of fresh air on O-6 pufa’s, although I suspect the controversy will rage on.

    More to the point, I have been mentally wrestling with my choice to eat about 2 ounces of mixed nuts daily. I know they have some great nutrition, but the O-6 content has worried me ever since the days of Kurt Harris’s Archevore.

    I have relatively good O-3 intake but my ratio has been hard to get below 4 to 1 on O6 – O3. After reading this article I feel more at peace with my current intake of O-6

    I’ll write a post on this in days to come and backlink your article.

  11. I see no one has mentioned chia seeds, the richest plant form of omega-3.

    When I make a tahini-miso spread, I add a tablespoon of chia seeds to help balance out the omega-6 content.

  12. What about chicken? That’s high in omega 6. I don’t eat that much, but I cut down on chicken and started eating more fish, and my ratio went down from 9:1 to 4.5:1. Still too high, probably from nuts, but I eat only raw sprouted nuts so maybe not too bad. I’d like to cut out chicken completely, but it’s everywhere, and I don’t always have time to prepare everything myself.

  13. I use Ghee, low heat olive oil and expeller pressed organic High Oleic Sunflower Oil.

    Would appreciate feedback on the use of the the High Oleic Sunflower Oil. Use it to replace Canola oil for high heat cooking/frying.

  14. Are we supposed to have a 1:1 ratio of omega 6 :3 ? How on earth do you manage to achieve / work out this ratio when considering your diet? I also understand that they share receptor sites…. Does that mean they should not be consumed together or you would never know which was absorbed and which wasn’t? Anyone taking black cumin seed oil ? I believe this is high in omega 6, and I take it at the opposite end of the day to my omega 3’s.

    • Just minimize the 6 and eat fish every couple of days! I get about 4g of omega 6 a day, it’s really easy to balance out 🙂

  15. It is not just the ratio of omega 3 to omega 6. A study showed that rats on a high omega 6 diet got worse when omega 3 was added. The total load of polyunsaturated oils was too high.

  16. I solved this issue for myself by eliminating oils completely. Part of the reason is that my body doesn’t process fats/oils well and I gain weight quickly on any oil…even the good ones. The rest is that I don’t want the Omega 3 vs. Omega 6 worry as a stressor in my life. I get my healthy fats from fatty fish and dark meat poultry (hormone/antibiotic-free) flax seeds, moderate amounts of nut butter, etc. Since I am an athlete with adrenal issues, I eat a low-fat, high-carb (the good ones) diet and it works for me.

  17. I was wondering about this yesterday as I looked at a table comparing Omega 3 to Omega 6 in whole foods and I thought: there is no way we can keep a ratio of 1:1 even if we remove rancid oils from the diet.
    My clients often ask me if nuts and seeds are good?
    As you said, I recommend that if we stick to Whole Foods and eat a reasonable amount of nuts and seeds in their whole Form we should not have to worry.

    • Leaving aside whether the ratio is really that important, It’s not too difficult to get a 1:1 ratio of omega-3s to omega-6s.

      A whole foods diet consisting of wild-caught fish (e.g. sardines, salmon, and cod), grass-fed beef and lamb, leafy greens, grass-fed butter, and occasional nuts and seeds will get you there.

      It’s when you consume large amounts of nuts, seeds, and meats that have poor ratios that your overall ratio gets out of whack.

      Again, I’m not saying a 1:1 ratio is ideal, but it is doable with a nutrient-dense whole foods diet.

  18. “Variety, moderation, and never stop learning” this is what I always say when people ask me about nutrition. People don’t seem to want to have to learn new things. They want a nice package of knowledge that they can put a bow on and never have to think through it again. My parents, for example, get angry when they hear new information. They feel like they’ve been lied to. I try to explain that we, professionals, doctors, ect, should strive to ever be learning new things.

  19. What do you think about avocado oil? I use the chosen foods Cold Pressed & Naturally Refined. I’m not sure what naturally refined means. Thanks! great post!

  20. I take a completely different view about foodstuffs as I believe that all the damage is done at the farming level,
    whereas all the other contributors to most food/health websites are focussing on the ‘after’ issues.

    Most farmers these days, especially those that produce large acreages for seed and oil crops, use Roundup or similar products which DO NOT biodegrade in contact with the soil. Wheat especially is doused in this before harvest, as it improves yields by separating the grain from the husks. Since this’ improvement ‘ results in disastrous effects on the health of consumers, the only means of avoidance is to only buy an organic product.

    • Thanks Beryl. Off-topic? I don’t think so.

      I have a minor editing contribution to your post:

      “Wheat especially is doused in this before harvest,” should read:

      “North American wheat is DOUSED in Roundup IMMEDIATELY BEFORE HARVEST”.

      They call it ‘hardening’. Beryl’s technical description of the motivation is doubtless accurate. But effectively what they’re doing is killing the plant, at apex, so no seed is lost. Right B4 harvest, pilgrims.

      I’ve removed the word “especially” from your phrase, because the practice is used equally on soybeans, and I dunno what all else.

      • If you follow the recent movement against the GMO crops, you must be aware that the Roundup from Monsanto is carcinogenic and this information was suppressed by Monsanto while registration of the product in USA years ago. Even Nobel laureates are on payroll for promotion of their products.

  21. Great article! I’ve been meaning to ask and now I take the opportunity: is there a downside with omega 3 enriched eggs? I believe they feed the chickens with flaxseed to make it. I regularly use those eggs as an omega 3 suplement and got curious. These are not organic, but organic eggs are difficult to find here. Thanks!

    • I raise chickens for they’re eggs and chickens don’t like flaxseeds. My chickens will not eat it. I don’t know how commercial chickens are forced to eat it. Something to think about. If the chicken is free range the eggs will naturally be high in omega 3

  22. I forgot to mention in my earlier post on this article that we consume a lot of nuts now in homemade trail mix. The nuts we use are almost entirely organic (some types are hard to find), and we soak and dry the nuts to reduce the phytates. Also, any nuts that we do not use immediately go into ziplock bags in the freezer.

  23. My wife and I cooked with grapeseed oil for years, because it had a high-heat rating. Then I discovered it had an omega6:omega3 ratio of about 700:1. It was right about the time I was diagnosed as having severe ischemic coronary artery disease. I have no risk factors for heart disease and live a very healthy lifestyle, or so I thought; now I attribute my CAD at least party to this. We now cook only with coconut oil at low-moderate heats, and use olive oil cold on salads and vegetables. Fortunately, I am doing fine now.

    • My Integrative Physician recommended: Avocado Oil, Grapeseed Oil or Olive Oil. I cook with a combination of all three and my lipid panel is perfect now, for the first time in years. The Grapeseed Oil I use is cold pressed, so maybe that’s what’s working well for me.

      • The lipid panel is largely useless in predicting heart disease; the correlations are quite low. Read Chris’ white paper on heart disease, and the book “The Cholesterol Myth”. My lipids have always been excellent. Only if you have hypercholesterolemia does it matter, but you would know that with your very first cholesterol test. Those tests cannot tell you if you have systemic inflammation, which is the root cause of heart disease and can be caused by any of a whole host of etiologic factors. There are several dozen things you can do to reduce your risk of heart disease, but paying close attention to cholesterol intake or lipid levels are not among them. Statins are almost a complete fraud. I eat 2-5 eggs a day from my backyard flock, which I started doing *after* being diagnosed with coronary disease, and I am healthier now. To the point of this article, oxidized fats are toxic, and everyone needs to know how to avoid them. For example, I eat nothing deep fried at restaurants any longer, and try to similarly avoid skillet fried foods. At home, I cook at low heats, often sauteing in a small amount of organic vegetable broth, etc. Another book I would recommend is “The Great American Heart Hoax” by Dr. Michael Ozner, cardiologist. And I would definitely NOT recommend Joel Fuhrman’s diet, unless you are very overweight; I am thin and have a high metabolism, and his diet caused my weight to drop to a dangerously low level.

  24. What about all those recipes that tell you to ‘toast’ your seeds for greater flavour, before using them. Or put seeds on baked rolls etc. Surely these pracitices will destroy the good oils?

  25. My wife likes to use rice bran oil for frying. High heat and neutral taste. I suggested using macadamia oil, however, she doesn’t like the taste. Also doesn’t like organic coconut oil, although I can eat it. I have not tasted any of these as becoming rancid, however, I do wonder about the acceptability of the rice bran oil. Any clarification on them?

    We eat mixed nuts daily. On occasion there is a Brazil nut that seems to be rancid so I’m concerned about that — should I eat it or not, since it is “only slightly” rancid (lol).

    We are Type II diabetics and have just started to examine better eating habits. Mainly “meat, potatoes and bread” before. No knowledge about flax seed flour, coconut flour, etc.

    Thanks for your articles.

  26. A great summary of things I have been concerned about, and vague on. What about avocado oil? Isn’t it as good as EVOO and coconut oil? It is much more available now (even at Costco), and it is all I use.

    Also, are there any studies on long term effects of eating raw nuts versus roasted? Roasted taste so much better, but I am worried I am oxidizing all the goodness out of them.

  27. Hello Chris
    Any thoughts about ghee- it’s been heated to obtain the results of clarified butter. And then we heat again to consume it. Is it because it is an animal source and not seed that deems this a safe and healthy option?

  28. I have a simple rule of thumb: if you have a persistent greasy mouth feel after eating something, you didn’t eat grease; you ate varnish.

    Methinks one of the worst offenders — now that hydrogenated oils have been reduced — are restaurants that stir fry on very hot griddles. A healthy enough oil may have been squirted on the griddle, but what bonds to the food isn’t.

  29. What’s your thought on consuming this PUFAs from vegtable oil raw, for example in a salad? Canola oil is a great source of omega 3 (ratio 2:1 omega 3 to omega 6). Here in Belgium I buy it from a local producer and it is cold-pressed. If cold-pressed and not healted, is it a healthy option?

    I also read some comments about the omega 3 in flaxseed being able to transform to EPA and DHA. If I’m not mistaking we humans are actually very bad at this transformatrion, therefore it is good to also eat fish.

    Thank you for another awesome article!
    Kind regards,
    Steffi

  30. Thanks for pointing at the facts we should eat more balanced food.
    If we eat a portion nuts (1 oz / 30 g) 2 or 3 times a week, and avoid most of the oils, except a little olive oil for salad, we won’t get too much linoleic acid (w6). Free range poultry or beef are well-balanced in W6 and W3.
    I eat twice a week poultry, 2x fish, and 2 x red meat. I balance with some added collagen or hen soup.
    We are surrounded by omega-6! So, we’d better take some mix vitamin E and coco oil to neutralize FFA (Free Fatty Acid). Especially if you suffer from an inflammatory disease or if you have depressed thyroid.
    You know we tend to store polyunsaturated fatty acids, especially after 45 years. Too much AA in membranes! We’d better reduce intake of PUFA’s, eat homemade, add coconut butter, butter and eggs (to replace SFA from manufactured food) on one side. On the other hand, we do well to neutralize the deleterious effects of excess PUFA’s (storage in the membranes).
    How? I give you the floor, for another paper … 😉
    PS: Please, don’t say any more omega 3 and 6 are essential… It’s not quite right, except for young children (brain) and pregnant women. Then 3 to 5 g PUFA is a right dose.
    Omega-3 and 6 are conditionally essential (in the absence of vitamin B6). Mead acids could do the same, without giving AA (arachidonic acid). A ratio 4/1 or 1/1 (for PUFA) would be OK for most people. Why no more? Pufa’s suppress mitochondrial respiration and stimulate the release of cytokines, activating a variety of immunological and inflammatory processes, when in excess. And there are, for most people!
    http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/0079683271900383 http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/2120529 http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/14559071 http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18990554 http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23900039
    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25787691

  31. Great article, with good information!

    Chris, I would also be interested in your opinion on the total amount of PUFAs in the diet. Paul Jaminet, with the Perfect Health Diet, advocates a maximum of about 4% of calories from PUFAs, saying research suggests there are toxic effect from higher amounts. What’s your take on this?

  32. Excellent article. Ghee is a great option when you do not want the flavor of coconut oil in certain foods and you can get very large bottles of it in the Indian grocery store at a good price. Also recommend not buying oil in plastic bottles and always purchase cold pressed oils and keep out of heat and sunlight.

    Winter Cohen MS,RD,CDN

  33. I have an autoimmune condition and PUFAs trigger massive hair loss for me – including eyebrows and eyelashes. Even good quality cod liver oil and whole organic flax seeds and sesame seeds trigger hair loss which surprises me as I used to think it was just the oils and that they were perhaps rancid.

  34. What about arachidonic acid? What is the relative risk of including “preformed omega-6” in the diet in ANY amount from things like egg yolks if you want to avoid excess inflammation?

  35. So what about deep-frying in coconut oil? You can make some delicious plaintain or sweet potato chips that way. At <170 degrees, the boiling oil smells like nothing but water is coming out of it, but we do repeatedly re-head it. How would that compare to doing the same thing with a seed oil?

    Maybe toss some concentrated vitamin E oil in there every time we re-heat…

  36. The desaturase and elongase enzyme inhibition works both ways. Therefore, supplementing with EPA/DHA can inhibit the formation of gamma linoleic acid (GLA), an important anti-inflammatory omega-6 fatty acid. If using EPA/DHA supplementation to reduce inflammation, it is wise to also supplement with GLA.

  37. I noticed no-one has mentioned palm oil. I buy the Nutiva red unrefined palm oil from Whole Foods. Is this a good oil to use for frying when you need a high smoke point?

  38. I am involved with many natural doctors and Nutritional Therapists who are using a do-it-yourself blood test to test Fatty Acids.

    The primary Indicators are:
    Omega-3 Index >8% Is my Omega-3 high enough ?
    Omega-6/3 Ratio 8% is relevant for heart health

    Omega-6/3 Ratio is a very good indicator for Inflammation, especially for joints that are “on fire” such as early stage Rheumatoid Arthritis and also for early Endometriosis.

    Most people have Omega-3 Index <2%, unless they are taking high strength fish oil or eating lots of oily fish

    Many people have Omega-6-3 Ratio greater than 25:1 These people invariably have Inflammation and often have flaky skin and Depression and . . . and . . . . .

    I have 3 Case Studies of 30-year old women with early stage Rheumatoid Arthritis who for 3 months took 3-5 mg of Omega-3 high strength natural fish oil each day – plus REDUCED their Omega-6 intake – and all the pain and symptoms went away. I was interested that all 3 called me a few months later and reported that their Endometriosis had also "gone away"

    You can read more about this at:
    http://www.omegaquant.com
    http://www.omegametrix.eu ( scroll down for English )
    http://www.expertomega3.com ( read the Studies )
    http://www.hqt-diagnostics.com
    http://www.greenvits.eu ( watch the videos & read the blogs )
    .

  39. Great update Chris! As for me… I never consume or cook with industrial seed oils. I’m that person who might pull a bottle of olive oil out of my purse at a restaurant. I do supplement fish oil because I am the only person in my home who likes to eat fish. I have not limited my consumption of nuts.

  40. Hi, I usually cook with coconut oil, some ghee sometimes. I never use vegetable oils because of the GMO trash that is in them. I found the web site from.Dr Seralini, its address is gmoseralini.org there I saw what happens if you run the apprival tests for gmo for a longer period if time. It is just ugly. Take a look for yourself.
    If I can use organic coconut oil instead of poisonous vegetable oils, there is no need to put my health at risc. Best price for coconut oil I find at Costco, a lot better than anywhere else.

  41. Are you not concerned at all about the FADH2:NADH ratio of fats? (And maybe there’s good reason not to be – just wondering.)

    It seems like – particularly in a context where carbs are plentiful – having a low FADH2:NADH ratio (which omega-6 fats necessarily do) will be much more likely to cause overeating by lowering insulin resistance in cells?

  42. How then do you now feel about ground flaxseed, Chris? Yay or nay? I did on the weekend used to like to have a flaxseed muffin-in-a-mug, but stopped because of the o6 issue. Could I resume the weekly muffin? Ty!

  43. You seem to be unaware of the fact that the body is capable of transforming Omega-3 PUFAs into one another, so it’s not true that eating fish is ESSENTIAL. Flaxseed oil, for instance, is a great source that is vegetarian in nature. When it’s present in the diet of otherwise well-nourished people, it can be an ideal source of Omega-3 GENERALLY, as EPA and DHA can be created from that by enzymes created in the body (which are also necessary for absorption of those same PUFAs from fish!)

    • I’ll let someone more knowledgeable than I comment on the body’s ability to convert and use EPA and DHA in flaxseed oil (see, for example, https://chriskresser.com/why-fish-stomps-flax-as-a-source-of-omega-3/) , but flax has another concern. It is a phytoestrogen and that’s not necessarily desirable. This article http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3074428/describes both pros and cons of phytoestrogens and points out that despite benefits, phytoestrogens are, among other things, endocrine disrupters “with molecular and cellular properties similar to synthetic endocrine disruptors such as Bisphenol A (BPA).” There are safety concerns, particularly in the amounts one has to ingest to replace animal sources of essential fatty acids.

      Ingesting flax caused me to have severe bleeding. I’ll stick to fish sources for my DPA/EHA, thank you very much.

    • Yet the conversion efficiency from the ALA in flaxseed oil and other plant sources to EPA and DHA is low. According to Wikipedia (with sources cited):

      “Humans can convert short-chain omega-3 fatty acids to long-chain forms (EPA, DHA) with an efficiency below 5%. The omega-3 conversion efficiency is greater in women than in men, but less-studied. Higher ALA and DHA values found in plasma phospholipids of women may be due to the higher activity of desaturases, especially that of delta-6-desaturase.”

      Moreover, the competition with omega-6 fatty acids may further decrease the extent of the conversion:

      “These conversions occur competitively with omega-6 fatty acids, which are essential closely related chemical analogues that are derived from linoleic acid. They both utilize the same desaturase and elongase proteins in order to synthesize inflammatory regulatory proteins.”

  44. Great article. The one question I have is: Is it OK to cook with unrefined,cold pressed oils with higher smoke points? – I’m from the UK where cold-pressed unrefined rapeseed oil is widely available. (Bright yellow – v different to typical canola oil). I don’t deep fry – but use it for igentle shallow frying. Will it still oxidise & become harmful?

    • I would recommend that rapeseed oil not be used extensively, as it is high in a toxic component, erucic acid, and certainly canola oil should be avoided entirely. Good quality oil is quite important, and organic, extra-virgin coconut, avocado and olive oil (and others) can be used with great benefit. Refined coconut oil has a higher smoke-point, but heat should generally be kept as low as possible to avoid auto-oxidation, allowing the healthier UNrefined coconut oil to take a greater role.

    • I use ghee for shallow frying which I find is very good for lack of smoke, even when camping – camp stoves have a very fierce heat.

  45. Excellent insight, Mr. Kresser.
    Three questions of the board, and especially the author. First: O6 oils are quite prone to rancidity (just look at how often we encounter rancid oils in the best packaging possible: the nut or seed!) Yet we see that a processed seed oil, standing for months at room temperature out in the light in a clear plastic jug resists rancidity. How is this possible? What are these oils, in reality? Certainly they can’t still be O6. How could they be?
    Second: “modified oil”. Anyone know what it is? I doubt the modification is an improvement. But I haven’t been able to find out what it is. Third: As Susan points out, virgin coconut oil is a very dominant flavor note. One my Redhead isn’t overly fond of, to boot. Certainly I’ll joyously throw it at any recipe with a little sweet, ginger, or warm N. African seasonings like harissa, or ras el hanout. But it can otherwise flat out ruin a recipe. How nutritionally inferior is the much-more-neutral refined form? Excellent content and fora, Mr. Kresser

    • I’m also curious about the refined vs non-refined coconut oil question. In addition to less flavor, the refined is also substantially cheaper at my market.

      • Same here… refined coconut oil allows for cooking at higher temps without fear of heating the oil past its “smoke point” and incurring the health issues that would result from doing so. I have been reading studies/reports that suggest that, for those on a budget, canola oil is an OK oil to use as long as it is non-GMO and expeller/cold-pressed. But the same issue arises with this oil as well – only the refined version can be used for higher temp cooking. Not everybody can afford these expensive fats (organic tallow/lard, duck fat, etc.) and oils (macadamia nut, pecan, etc.) to cook with.
        So back to the main point of my reply – “How nutritionally inferior is the much-more-neutral refined form?” Is a refined coconut oil a better choice than a chemically produced, refined vegetable oil like soybean, corn, etc.? And if not, what type of non-refined, cold-pressed oil (or fat) is good for higher temp cooking that won’t break the bank?

        • “studies/reports that suggest that, for those on a budget, canola oil is an OK oil to use as long as it is non-GMO and expeller/cold-pressed” Again, back to my original query, how can it be? PUFAs are extremely prone to rancidity. If it’s standing in a jug in the light at room temp for months on end how can it be nutricious? How can it be O6 at all? I’m sure you can indeed get fresh cold-pressed canola, but I’ll bet it’s in a dark glass bottle, refrigerated, at a health food store. “budget” would not apply. If I’m mistaken, I throw myself at the mercy of the forum.

          • good point, natery… I must’ve just completely blanked out when reading that part of your post. I use avocado oil when I can, and it is usually in a dark colored glass bottle (or other non-clear container), but, most of all the other oils I have used in the past are in clear glass/plastic bottles. And, sadly, this is how most affordable oils are packaged.
            But, again, even “virgin” avocado oil has only a medium-temp smoke point, along with “virgin” coconut oil. And forget about cooking with true pure virgin olive oil, it has such a low smoke point.
            So, again, is a cold-pressed refined coconut oil/avocado oil/etc. a better choice than a chemically produced, refined vegetable oil like soybean, corn, etc.? And if not, what type of non-refined, cold-pressed oil (or fat) is good for higher temp cooking that won’t break the bank?

            And, yes, I know that for healthier food, low and slow is the preferred cooking method, but there are times when a higher cooking temp is needed, and I would just like to find a healthy fat, or oil, that can withstand the heat (if one even exists).

            • “The best organic oils to safely use for cooking (the most heat tolerant) and their corresponding smoke point temperatures are:

              • Avocado oil— 520 ° F
              • Mustard oil— 489 ° F
              • Ghee— 485 ° F
              • Hazelnut oil— 430 ° F
              • Grapeseed oil— 420 ° F
              • Macadamia oil— 413 ° F
              • Coconut oil— 350 ° F
              • Butter— 350 ° F”

              From Douillard, John. “Eat Wheat: A Scientific and Clinically-Proven Approach to Safely Bringing Wheat and Dairy Back into your Diet”

              I liked the idea, mentioned by another reader, of buying ghee for cheap at an Indian grocery. I will try that myself.

    • On the recommendation of Chris Masterjohn, I use macadamia oil for making mayo and salad dressing. It is also excellent for sauteeing. It has a mild, buttery taste.

  46. My guess is that the Omega 6s in nuts, while possibly not bad for human health, likely cause reduced weight loss or weight gain. Dr. Eades has a good article on this:

    https://proteinpower.com/drmike/2016/07/27/are-nuts-paleo/

    Otherwise, I agree with everything you’ve said.

    I’ve also been using all kinds of animal fat for any kind of “frying” (meaning searing, mainly). I use bacon fat, home-made lard, home-made beef tallow, duck fat, goose fat, etc. Our home-made lard is great for searing meat after it comes out of a sous vide machine, for instance. I’ve even used our lard to fry plantains in, as a treat. We’ve also found some places that sell tallow from grass-fed cows, nicely made lard, etc.

    I do use extra virgin olive oil or avocado oil for home-made mayo or salads. That’s about it in terms of vegetable oils (other than coconut oil, that is).

    • I’ve found the Eades’ article interesting…We could say, that most nuts are also rich in antinutrients…
      Nevertheless, we also have African tribes that heavily rely on mongongo nuts…
      It’s a bit controversial issue, probably some nuts are better than the others, as macadamia nuts for example

      • African tribes have a completely different microbiome than western civilizations. One cannot compare their diet with ours but it’s clear that they eat a lot more healthily since they’re still hunter gatherers.

        • I certainly agree with most of the stuff about microbiome, but I don’t want to go so far to overlook our genome. Now it seems that it’s all about microbiome and we are forgetting what we actually are aside from that.
          It’s about the interaction between everything, not just about one thing, and it’s proven by the fact that survivor men that had to live in the jungle for years seemed to be perfectly adapted to live their despite their western provenience and microbiome.
          It takes some good sense overall…the microbiome stuff is being overexploited by big pharma and from those who want to make you believe that it’s not possible to be healthy outside of our crazy little world.

  47. Yes I did shy away from nuts and seeds high in omega 6, especially because I do not eat fish or meat. I do not eat oils high in omega 6, but prefer olive oil or coconut fat. This is an interesting development and an argument I have not heard before, thank you for posting the article. I am more inclined not to worry about almonds and peanut butter now.

  48. I often use avocado oil in cooking, especially at higher heats like baking/roasting chicken or vegetables, especially when I don’t want even a trace of coconut flavor (Nature’s Way liquid coconut oil is great, but sometimes I don’t want even a hint of that flavor). It has a very neutral flavor. I don’t fry, but for other stovetop cooking I usually use pastured ghee, butter, sometimes olive, coconut or avocado oil. For salad dressing I like olive, sometimes a specialty seed or nut oil like macadamia, or I’ll just use a mashed up avocado as my “oil” in a creamy dressing. I’d rather have a quarter avocado than 1-2 T of oil.

  49. Thank you Chris, for this clarification. This is great to know. Yes, I have been conscious about eating too many nuts and seeds because of the omega 6 content. But now I can relax a little, since I don’t eat processed foods. And I very rarely cook with fats – I mostly cook in water and then add fat if I want it. In the rare instances I do cook with fat, it’s ghee or coconut oil. Also, I’m not crazy about how so many Paleo people use almond flour for baking.

  50. Great discussion, I have found that eating a diversity of organic nuts and seeds in our daily regimen has helped to stabilize as our family has become a grain free, sugar free, and ketogenic for various health related issues. I often questioned how to gauge the omega 3 and omega 6 and we take a good quality fish oil with over 3 grams of EPA and DHA combined. I now feel less consumed with worrying about one or two servings of say, a pancake made with almond flour, coconut flour, grinded pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds and brazil nuts all raw and organic. These are delicious and easy to make. Also, a similar combination can be used to make a “nutty flour” to coat organic chicken with an organic egg wash. The heat in cooking is medium low and 350 F. (pancakes, and baked chicken).

    The nutrients can boost a comprised autoimmune hypothyroidism issue. Thanks for the update, and valuable input.

    • No need for almond flour for pancakes. Try a combo of coconut flour , potato starch,arrowroot powder, pysillium husk,a clean grass fed plain unsweetened whey protein powder

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