Omega-6 is the villain around these parts.
Why? Because excess Omega-6 can lead to inflammation.
It’s not as black and white as ‘Omega-3 good; Omega-6 baaad!‘ That’s an over-simplified view of a blog focused on the wonders of Omega-3.
Health matters are never that simple. Inflammation, after all, is a natural repair process.
Excess Omega-6 is just one of the reasons behind chronic, low-level inflammation. Other reasons include excess blood glucose, poor probiotic status, obesity, lack of sleep, gluten consumption, gut dydbiosis, etc.
The Omega-3 and Omega-6 Balance
For now, let’s focus on how to reduce Omega-6 fats.
Omega-3s and 6s have opposing functions in the body. Think ying-yang. How much Omega-3 or fish oil you need depends on how much Omega-6 you get in your diet.*
Omega-6 are largely pro-inflammatory. For eons, our ancestors ate a roughly 1 to 1 ratio of these two fats. This is ideal.
But things haven’t been ideal for a few decades.
We’ve been eating almost 20 times as much Omega-6 as Omega-3. Part of our myopic love for Omega-6-rich vegetable oils is that it reduces cholesterol. In 1969, the Los Angeles Veterans Trial studied the replacement of dietary saturated fats with Omega-6-rich fats. The group on the high Omega-6 diet had lower cholesterol and fewer cardiovascular events. But they started dying at alarming rates.
No one issued a memo. It was the dawn of cholesterol-phobia and the study was quietly forgotten.
Arachidonic Acid – a major dietary source of inflammation
The Omega-6 in our diet is mostly Linoleic Acid (LA). This Omega-6 can get converted to Arachidonic Acid (AA) depending on what else you eat.
AA has an impact on inflammation and your overall health because it breaks down into several inflammatory compounds.
In a self-experiment, science writer and the author of The Queen of Fats, Susan Allport embarked on a high-Omega-6 diet for one month. She worked closely with researchers to get blood tested through this experiment. Within a month, her AA/EPA ratio went from about 3 to 9.
You are most at risk if you eat a standard American diet AND you do not eat seafood.*
Where does our dietary Omega-6 come from?
And, more importantly, how can you reduce the amount of Omega-6 in your body?
The average American man eats about 17,000 mg of Omega-6 (Linoleic Acid) daily.*
And most of it comes from vegetable seed oils:
- Grape seed
Some of it also comes from shortening and margarine.
Is this a problem? It’s unprecedented in human history…that’s for sure.
Omega-6 fats make up 7-10% of our calories. It mostly comes from soybean oil, a ‘food’ that did not exist on the planet until the 1950s. In my opinion, yes, this is a problem given that for all of human history, we got about 2% of our calories from Omega-6.
But the severity of the problem depends on your diet – what else are you eating besides Omega-6?
Steps to Reducing your Omega-6 Load
Step 1. Stop cooking with seed oils.
Step 2. Cut out restaurant-cooked or store-bought fried foods:
- french fries
- packaged baked goods
- virtually all junk foods
Step 3. Go easy on poultry and chicken dark meat.
Step 4. Eat home-cooked foods. Restaurants rely heavily soybean oil.
A visit to McDonald’s
McDonald’s uses a vegetable oil that’s a blend of Soy and Canola.
McDonald’s medium fries contain 16 grams of total fat. Assuming their oil blend is about 40% Omega-6 Linoleic acid, you get a whopping 6,400 mg of Omega-6. That’s just from the fries!
About 0.5% of all LA is converted to AA. More if your diet is low in Omega-3 and high in insulin-spiking sugar and refined carbs. McDonald’s fries are both, low Omega-3 and high in carbs. If the fries were rich in magnesium, zinc, Vit C, B3 and B6, less of the LA would be converted to AA…but no such luck with fries, so even more of the LA gets converted to inflammatory AA.
The Coke and the fries push towards greater AA production. The nutrients found in seafood, veggies, nuts, meats and tubers pull you away from AA production. Ahem – paleo, anyone?
The Risk with Restaurants
You might think you left shortening or margarine behind back in the 90s. Think again. Restaurants, even fancy ones, use them liberally. This Zagat-rated fancy place had cooked my salmon in margarine.
What should you cook with?
- Olive oil. I use Bertolli Extra Light. I’m having this oil analyzed at UC Davis to find out its exact Omega-6 content. I’ll share results here when I have it. Use caution with blended mainstream olive oils – this stuff is expensive and ripe for adulteration.
- Butter, preferably grass-fed. I use Kerry Gold when my local farmer gal runs out.
- Expeller pressed coconut oil. The organic, extra virgin stuff that everyone’s going nuts over makes your food and the house smell like Almond Joy and it doesn’t hold up to heat very well. Look for Expeller pressed coconut oil – it has low-odor and much higher smoking point.
- Beef tallow, if you dare. I get mine from US Wellness.
What about chicken? Well, pass on the deep-fried thighs from KFC and deep-fried mystery nuggets. White meat cooked at home is OK.
What about nuts? Nuts should be a part of everyone’s diet – they’re packed with nutrients. Minerals, vitamins and prebiotics. Yes, they’re rich in Omega-6 but you have to look at the big picture. Eat no more than a handful per day. But if you buy those giant tub-o-nuts from Costco, well, just a handful is kinda hard.
What about eggs and meats? Eggs yolks and red meat have some built-in Arachidonic Acid and cholesterol. And this has been used as an argument for going vegan. Egg yolks are one of the most nutrient dense foods on the planet. Remember, eggs contribute just 1% of your Omega-6 intake. You could reduce egg consumption if you absolutely must, but don’t eliminate it from your diet. Instead, tackle the elephant on your plate – seed oils.
The bottom-line is that you cannot supplement your way out of an inflammatory condition with Omega-3 pills.
Your multi-pronged approach should be: reduce Omega-6, reduce insulin-spiking foods, eat a whole food nutrient dense diet that provides plenty of magnesium, zinc, Vitamin C, B3, and B6, heal your gut, and fix your sleep issues.
But start with reducing Omega-6 back to ancestral human levels.
Do you have any questions about reducing Omega-6?
Please post your questions in the comments section.
*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.
What about the issue of grassfed meat verses grain fed? Wouldn’t grassfed meat and poultry have more omega 3 and less omega 6 than the grain fed meats? And what about wild fish vs farmed fish? Wouldn’t it be more omega 3 and less omega 6 in the wild fish?
Hi Kathy – yes, the Omega-3 to 6 ratio is much better with grass-fed meats. As the graph on the top of the article indicates, the amount of Omega-6 the average American eats comes mostly from foods fried or processed with seed oils. That’s where most people will find it easy to make big changes. Once you’ve already done that, then yes, the next targets are switching out grain-fed meats for grass-fed ones and reducing nut intake. If saturated fats don’t bother your cholesterol levels, you can also switch from olive to coconut oil and butter. Doing all of the above got my AA/EPA ratio to about 1. I’m happy with that, but my overall AA level is higher than I’d like. So it’s time to cut back a little on eggs and meats to see if that makes a difference.
I have POTS and get my salt from a snack bag of chips that has a good pottasium to sodium ratio. Is that too much 6?
Hi Roseanne, oh my goodness, yes, chips are cooked in oils that are way too high in Omega-6.
Thanks for this blog Vin – I’ve been reading for a while and really appreciate the objective and well-cited information.
I do have one question about another product you’ve talked about on here – Omega 7. I really want to take these, but I’ve heard that Innovix’s formulation includes soy somehow. Can you clarify? I’m allergic to soy but seem to be able to eat some products that mention soy in the label but not others…no idea why, except that maybe some “soy-containing” products only use certain soy isolates that don’t cause a reaction. Do you have any thoughts on this, or any more information about the soy specifically used in Innovix’s omega 7 capsules?
Hi David – we use Tocopherol (Vitamin E) derived from soy to maintain the freshness of our Omega-7. This tocopherol is soy allergen free and soy protein free. It is the proteins in soy that people are allergic to. Regardless, we will remove this source of tocopherol in 2015.
Love your info!
Would you agree that a low carb/paleo/primal diet virtually solves this problem then? I’m talking a whole foods approach, no frankenfoods and one that is minimal in nuts and seed oils.
Hi Melissa – low carb does not necessarily do it. But a well thought out Paleo or Primal diet will do the trick beautifully. (I’m not a fan of ketogenic or low-carb for everyone – it works for some. It did NOT work for me.) Your approach should work. If you get your AA/EPA measured, please keep us posted. I’d be really interested to know how you do. There is some evidence that shows that reducing LA consumption does not do much for AA levels. So I wonder how you come along.
Do you have a ‘take’ on grass fed cheese? We use Kerry Gold butter and they have a fairly extensive line of grass fed cheeses available in some parts of the US, as are other brands of organic, grass fed cheese – but is this safe to eat?
Hi Mike – cheese made from grass-fed cattle are great, assuming you tolerate dairy. I eat grass-fed, full fat butter, cheese and heavy cream regularly. Kerry Gold is good stuff. But make sure you get the full fat kind. Do not buy the low-fat or skim stuff. Full fat, grass fed cheese are more likely to have healthy amounts of Omega-3, CLA, Vitamin K2, and Vit A.
I read in many articles that sesame seeds are good anti inflammatory..so how does it possible if they are rich in omega 6?
Is it ok to consume 1 tablespoon of sesame seed butter daily?
Hi Zeba – sesame seeds are certainly rich in Omega-6 fats. Eating some sesame seeds regularly is fine. It is a different matter using it as your primary cooking oil – I would not do this. I would not eat a tablespoon of sesame seed butter daily due to its high Omega-6 content.
I am 70 years old and moved to southern Ca from central Ny 10 years ago. I had no health problems when I got here but, now I am disappointed because I feel so tired and have RA in my lower torso, back, upper front legs which interferes with my sleep. I thought my diet was good, now I question myself and do not want to start taking “pills” until I die. The pains (throbbing, aches, and sharp pains are getting me down. My doctor has done several blood tests and came to the conclusion of RA which is supposedly the norm for old geezers. Is this krill oil something you think will give me some relief and do you “suggest” any one brand please. I think you are a very nice down to earth person and will guide me in the right direction.
Hi Julie – rheumatoid arthritis is difficult to endure. It is an autoimmune condition where your own body attacks itself. This is not how our bodies were designed to function. There are some dietary and lifestyle changes that will help reduce the severity. There are several autoimmune dietary protocols available. I suggest this one: http://www.thepaleomom.com/autoimmunity/the-autoimmune-protocol
Krill oil does have some benefits, but it is mostly hype. Virtually everyone I know with RA has an inappropriate diet. Tackle diet + lifestyle first. You will have to stop eating things that you love and thought were healthy, like whole grains.
Pills should always play a supporting role.
RA might be caused by LECTINS found in meany healthy foods … or less healthy …potatoes, tomatoes, eggplant, squash … can cause RA symptoms
Several things contribute to RA – genetic predisposition, leaky gut, stress, and possibly dietary triggers, which are likely to vary from person to person. While nightshades may affect one person, it may have little effect on another.
Please explain the difference between expeller pressed and cold pressed coconut oil ? Can you recommend a brand and where to buy ? Costco, Trader’s Joe, etc. in my area only carry cold pressed organic coconut oil.
Hi DPK – expeller pressed is ideal for cooking because it does not have a strong odor (will not overpower everything with a coconutty flavor and do the same to your house) and you can get expeller pressed in organic too. The other types – ‘virgin’ and ‘extra virgin’ have a strong flavor and are best used with salads or where you don’t mind the flavor being dominant. ‘Cold pressed’ is most likely like virgin. I get mine from Amazon – Jarrow.
Great article Vin. Where do you get your AA/EPA levels tested? Do you know of a good take home kit for this or do you have it done by a lab?
Hi Jonathan – I’ve had it tested at labs and also with a DIY test kit. You can get a test kit from http://omegaquant.com/omega-3-index/
Hi Vin – I use Rice bran oil for cooking food. Details about this oil is in the below link.
Can you please advice if it is a good oil or do I discontinue its usage and move over to olive oil.
Hi Ritz – it is better than corn, soy, sunflower and sesame seed oils, but that is the nicest thing I can say. It still has about 35% Omega-6 fats (linoleic acid) and that is WAY TOO HIGH for me. Given that our diet is already too high in Omega-6, one of the best ways to reduce total Omega-6 burden is to cook with oils that are very low in Omega-6. This is why I use butter, ghee, coconut oil, and olive oil. Even olive oil with 7 or 8% Omega-6 feels like it is too high. I would never use rice bran oil to cook.
Hi Vin – I work out 45 mins to 60 mins at the gym daily (cardio+muscle building). This is medium to high intensity work out. I have been advised by the gym instructor to eat good amount of carbs 30 mins before the work out ( cookies , oatmeal etc). On going through your website, I understand that these carbs will shoot up my TG levels. On the other hand, I need the requisite carbs for my work out. This is now a catch 22 situation for me. Can you please advice ?
Hi Ritz – I don’t see any catch-22 here. Eat what you’ve been eating (per your recent posts here) and continue working out. Do not work out with high intensity every single day. You need a couple of off days to allow your body to recover. A lot of your gains come during recovery.
Did the gym dude really tell you to eat cookies?! Unless you’re running marathons, you don’t need to carb up. You’re already metabolically compromised. Low-ish/lower carb dieting is your only option now.
Hi Ritz (and Vin) – I don’t know if this would work for you but it does for me. I do 45 min – 60 min of cardio with a heavy weight vest/belt (such as treadmill or outside movements) and another 45 or so of moderate strength training per day.
I don’t do ANY extra carbs at all – I just use table spoons of Virgin Coconut oil and that gets me through every workout just fine.
Hi Mike – Thanks for your note. Can you please share the brand name of coconut oil that you drink before the workout ?
Hi Ritz – I use Swanson’s Organic Extra Virgin Coconut Oil. I don’t know if Vin allows it but here is a link http://www.swansonvitamins.com/swanson-organic-certified-organic-extra-virgin-coconut-oil-54-oz-1-53-kilograms-solid-oil
Swanson’s has some good individual products, but I stay away from their Multi’s and Fish Oil – there are better products (like Omegvia) available
I don’t actually drink it – it is a solid butter like consistency most of the year where I live – it melts about 72- 75 degree range, so I scoop out part of a spoonful and let it melt in my mouth, only takes a few seconds. Until you get used to the taste, it’s better to start with partial spoonfuls at first. I take my first ‘hit’ about 5 – 10 minutes before I start my cardio, then add more as needed.
I don’t know if this works for everyone but it does for me, and keeps my carbs down some while getting a healthy oil.
Hi Mike – feel free to share links if it helps advance the conversation.
Ritz – I use expeller pressed coconut oil (Jarrow) for cooking because it has little or no odor. And several extra virgin type coconut oils if it’s for drizzling on a salad or does not require heat. I don’t use virgin coconut oil for cooking because it overwhelms the flavor with its sweet nuttiness. Lots of low-carb folks use coconut oil in the morning for some energy while maintaining their ketogenic state.
Low-carb is great for metabolically disturbed people, but take it to an extreme and you could seriously hurt your probiotic flora (there is nothing for them to eat when you remove all prebiotic carbs) and you could also mess up your thyroid hormones.
Hi Vin and Hi Mike – Thank you for your replies. I will certainly explore this option. Can you kindly guide me on what would be ideal to consume post-work out. Currently , after my work out , I take threptin biscuits. (http://threptin.com/). The composition is in the site : http://threptin.com/product.htm#a
I take about 4 biscuits ( diskette).
Each diskette (5gm) provides:
Proteins -1.5 gm
Carbohydrates – 2.4 gm
Sugar (Sucrose) – 1.15 gm
Fat – 0.7 gm
Nicotinamide – 0.7 mg
Riboflavin – 0.063 mg
Thiamine – 0.053 mg
Total Calorie Count – 21.9 kcal
Please advice. Thanks.
Hi Ritz – seems like a completely useless product. Why not just eat a couple of eggs and a banana?
Hi Ritz and Vin – I don’t really understand the use of Threptin. I can get similar nutrition (and more protein/fat) with a 1/2 cup of 2% or low fat cottage cheese.
Serving Size: 1/2 cup (113g)
Servings per container: about 4
Amount Per Serving
Calories from Fat 45
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 5g 8 %
Saturated Fat 3g 15 %
Trans Fat 0g
Cholesterol 15mg 5 %
Sodium 350mg 15 %
Total Carb 4g 1 %
Dietary Fiber 0g 0 %
Protein 13g 26 %
Vitamin A 4 %
Calcium 10 %
Vitamin C 0 %
Iron 0 %
No fiber in the cottage cheese but other wise superior nutrition. But I don’t often do post-work out snacking.. Generally, if my blood glucose reading is 90 or above, and if I don’t feel hungry after my workout then I don’t eat.
The Threptin contains casein, which may be OK, but there is also some (controversial) research that the combination of casein and whey provides better protein absorbing support then casein (or whey) alone. Cheese provides both and there are some decent tasting organic brands available and a local brand here (in NM) that has very simple ingredients. Again, controversial, but organic, grass fed fat may actually be good for humans?
It seems like omega 6 is something we need to avoid. Can you explain evening primrose oil? It seems to be omega 6 as well but people are using it as supplement. Can men supplement with it for skin disorder?
Hi Alan – Omega-6 is an essential fatty acid. Without it will perish. It is that important, but the problem is the unnaturally high levels of it that is present in modern food supply.
Evening primrose has more Omega-6 than I’d like to ingest. However, it has one potentially good Omega-6 called GLA, which can be converted to something ‘good’ or ‘bad.’ What it does depends on several things including diet and a few other factors. It’s a bit more complex than I can get into in the comments section here. My suggestion is to avoid all seed oils and any and all foods that may be cooked in oils made from soy, corn, canola, sunflower, peanut etc. Consume olive oil, fish oil, butter and coconut oil generously instead.
Skin disorders are often linked to inflammation (potentially caused by excess Omega-6, sugar, processed foods, and ruined gut health) and gut issues. Go on an anti-inflammatory diet and research how to go about healing the gut – you may need a specialist’s help with the latter.
You’ve shared some real good information.
I wish to boost my omega 3 levels with flaxseed. Though the omega 6: omega 3 ratio of flaxseed is exceptionally good, it also has a good amount of omega 6. How can this be tackled? Can I hope to bring down my CRP, Anti CCP and Homocysteine levels by cutting down on omega 6 and improving omega 3? Will the same get me rid of eczema?
You’ve mentioned butter is a good source of omega 3, is ghee equivalent to it?
Hi Piyush – the problem with vegetarian Omega-3 sources like flaxseed is that the human body (especially that of adults and males) is terrible at converting the Omega-3 in vegetables (ALA) into usable EPA and DHA. You’d have to take 20 pills to get the benefit of one or two. Still, it’s better than nothing. You need to go on an anti-inflammatory diet that’s mostly vegetables, eggs, and other whole foods. Grains and sugar will not help. Flaxseed wont help much with the markers your are concerned about. The Omega-6 in flaxseed is the least of your worries – sorry! Ghee is fine. Read up on anti-inflammatory diets and what causes chronic, systemic inflammation.
Hi there! I recently took an omega fatty acids test and my Aa:EPA was measured at 16.2 ! 🙁 I’m also having a lot of issue’s with my gut that in waiting to see a G.I. specialist for. My doctor has suggested I take 2 peak-epa tablets per day which contain 1400 mg fish oil, 700 mg EPA, 350 mg dha; along with 2 servinga of fatty acid fish, reduction of red meats and chicken skins, increase avocado consumption and cook with olive oils. He has also suggested a dairy, gluten, sugar, and soy free diet, with no corn, and reduction of high glycemic fruits. Oh and also no nuts or seeds, other than Chia or flax. What are you thoughts on this diet? Is rice and quinoa OK? Beans and lentils? How do I make up for calcium if I shouldn’t be eating dairy? Very overwhelmed. Thank you in advance for your response.
Hi Mersiha – your AA/EPA ratio is very high. You need to reduce your dietary sources of AA. This could be a combination of the oils you are consuming (read article above again) in combination with a high sugar/grain/starch diet. The combination of high Omega-6 diet along with high blood glucose is dangerous. The diet suggested by your doctor sounds great. Rice and quinoa are less harmful by themselves, but will also increase your blood sugar levels. I would suggest getting your starch from vegetables, roots, and fruits instead of grains. Beans and lentils are OK for most people. Dairy is as good a source of calcium as people think. For calcium, eat more leafy vegetables, beans but especially, cook your meats and seafood with the bone. Try bone broth. Fish is a good source of calcium.
Do grains provide some kind of nutrient I might become deficient in, if I take everything out? What about Omega 3 eggs, are those ok, or too much Omega 6? Sweet potatoes, regular potatoes? I don’t know what to eat other than fruits and vegetables with some kind of lentils and protein. Can you give me a few examples for a breakfast or lunch idea, I’m sorry I’m so frustrated I don’t know how to do this myself.
Hi Mersiha – there is absolutely nothing in grains that you cannot find in vegetables, fruits, and nuts. Eggs are fine. Since you are trying to cut out AA, go with egg whites for a month or two. Then you can go back to yolks. Sweet and regular potato are OK but they increase blood sugar a lot. For now, eat less of them.
Also, would higher glycemic fruits such as mangoes, pineapples, bananas be a bad idea in combination with my high AA ratio? What vegetable starches are you referring to to use in my diet instead of things like rice and quinoa?Simply living on fruits and vegetables isn’t leaving me very full throughout the day, I feel like I’m always hungry.
Yes, higher glycemic foods are a bad idea while trying to lower inflammation and AA levels. If you are hungry, increase fat and fiber content – a local nutrition or dietitian can help. This is not a matter that you should figure out solely over the web.
I am hoping you can help me understand why my AA/EPA ratio would be so high (23 and the high end of the reference range was 18) if I follow a primal diet and rarely have vegetable / seed oils. What are some non-food causes? My functional MD wasn’t sure and said it could be hereditary or that since this is the first time I’ve taken this test, that maybe I was way worse off before when I was not eating a primal diet about 4 years ago now. I have sleep issues and am overweight despite tirelsss efforts following a Paleo framework and seeing RD’s, functional Med docs, etc. please let me know if you need more information to better answer this question. Thanks!!!
Hi Radha – you seem far more informed than most people. That you are seeing a Functional Medicine MD and an RD, along with a primal/paleo type puts you far ahead of the curve. BUT…(and it’s a big ‘but’) your AA/EPA ratio suggests things are not quite perfect. We’ll get to that in a bit. Sleep issues are often a combination of several factors: inadequate sunlight exposure, inadequate activity, exposure to screens after sunset (TV, computer, smart phones), magnesium deficiency, neurotransmitter issues due to several reasons (antibiotics, gut sysbiosis etc.), excess caffeine, eating heavy meals past sunset, and on and on. Weight issues are just as complex and require similar approaches as sleep resolution. Now to your AA/EPA ratio…a diet high in eggs yolk and red meat can be high in AA. Nuts are full of Alpha linoleic acid, which can be converted to AA, especially if you have high insulin. Given you weight issues, perhaps you have elevated insulin? To reduce AA, you can reduce egg yolks, red meat, nuts, and starches that drive insulin levels. You can also improve the AA/EPA ratio by increasing your EPA levels. That’s easy – if you are going to reduce egg yolks and red meat, you’ll need more protein sources. Seafood fits the bill well and will improve your EPA level. You could always pop a couple of our EPA 500 pills. Given your ratio, I’d target 4-6 per day till your next blood test. None of the above should be considered medical advice, but merely dietary intervention. An ideal primal diet should consist of mostly vegetables (aim for 25 different veggies per week), lots of olive oil (I like Bertolli Extra Light and several extra virgin types), and some seafood. Focus on gut health – both probiotics and prebiotics. We make some products under our InnovixLabs brand that may help. If you have ApoE4 allele issues (ask your doctor), then you should consider avoiding coconut oil and butter in favor of monounsaturated fats like olive oil. Don’t shy away from olive oil – take lots and lots of it! AA/EPA ratios are not a mystery – focus on what’s driving AA levels and eliminate them one by one. EPA is easy.
If you’re willing to share what your typical diet looks like I may be able to help a little more. Otherwise, please come back in a couple of months and let us know how you do.
what do you recommend for allergies , memory and mental clarity. I am eating a low seed oil, high vegetables, chicken once or twice a week , omega-3 cap once or twice a day, low gluten diet . Am also loosing weight and not needing to.
Hi Joan – there are no supplements that target histamine release (allergies) as well as over-the-counter and prescription medications. However, there may be supplements like Omega-3 and some probiotics, and prebiotic fibers that help blunt the inflammatory response that is involved in allergies. A functional medicine MD may be able to help you get to the root of this issue.
According to Oregon State University(Linus Pauling Institute » Micronutrient Information Center), canola oil and soybean oil are sources of omega-3 fatty acids. I am confused and in need of some clarification. I will also write a request for clarification with the Oregon State University.
Hi Revy – both canola and soybean oils have small amounts of ALA Omega-3. This form of Omega-3 can only be used by the body after a lengthy ‘elongation’ process by which the body converts it into EPA Omega-3, which the body can use. Very little of it is converted to EPA and virtually zero is converted to DHA. So, yes, technically, there is some Omega-3 in soybean oil. But there is a LOT of Omega-6 in there that could be quite harmful if taken in excess. If you are a vegan and wish to get your Omega-3 from plant sources, there are MUCH better sources like Flax or even better, Echium oil. These dont have EPA or DHA, but they contains a lot less Omega-6 than soybean oil. In my (albeit biased) opinion, there is no reason whatsoever to recommend soybean oil to anyone for any health purpose.
I get suspicious when I see all this meat eater propaganda everywhere on the internet. Arichidonic acid you can find in egg yolks, pigmeat, broiler chicken, even in wild mammals. LA is very bad yes but ARA is so fantastic. It is hard to get an omega 6/3 balance of 1/1 if you eat a lot of birds,pigmeat, organmeat, even most wild mammals have much more ARA than EPA,DPA, and DHA. If a half percent of the LA is converted to ARA then 20 grams of LA gives 0,1 ARA and you get much more from eating red meat, organ meat, egg yolks, birds, poultry,butter and animal fats. There is a little bit in milk and cheese, in fish you have much more animal omega 3 than ARA. I don’t think you have a clue what people ate in stone age.
Hi Bo – ARA is essential like Omega-3. I wouldn’t call it fantastic. Elevated ratio of AA to EPA is a very good marker for several chronic diseases. I don’t see the issue in getting small amounts of it from meat. I am equally suspicious of ‘meat eater propaganda’ as I am of ‘meat avoidance propaganda.’ No one knows with certainty what people ate during the stone age. But you can make fair generalizations. There was probably occasional starvation, which made them far less selective than we are. There was probably seasonality to their diet. They probably ate a lot less sugar and sweet things than we do. They probably ate less meat than many of us do today, but I am also certain that they were not vegans. I have traveled to the most remote parts of the Amazon jungle, Africa and Asia to live with and study the eating habits of people who live in jungles. Based on my observations in these places, my crude generalizations of what our cave dwelling ancestors at is reasonably accurate.
Thank Vin for so much cool info,
I self diagnosed with the help of a doctor friend ,
determining my condition to be RA,
I have every one of the classic symptoms as far as I can tell.
I nor family have any history of it, in fact I’ve been a pescitarian
for 22 year , fish vegies, but also grain , natural peanut butter, 2 beers
at dinner, whole wheat bread, pinto beans ,potatoes, things like that, oh and
approx 2 cups of coffee in the am.
So , in april I got a bee sting one or two weeks later I got this gut bloating that
lasted about 3 days, never before had this kind of feeling.
(I had been getting leg cramps while working out, exercising….strange , for
almost a year which ended totally about a two weeks ago, prolly/poss due to Patassium Gluconate.)
So a week or so after the ‘bloating’ I started getting stiff painful knees and back of calves, as
well as one or other thigh, then top of left foot, top of right foot, both foot ‘pads’
swelled, so about late may I had trouble walking in the am, standing up, turning
door knobs, the pain, swelling and stiffness was toes, feet, (knees not so much
by then), fingers , wrists , back of hand. Pain and swelling from about 1am till
8 am, I’m usually up my 4:30 am, so seems being asleep is when things really
start go to south, can’t even begin to close right hand, left hand can close
about 1/2 , now through all this, my afternoons have always improved to where
I almost didn’t feel much pain.
Ok , that’s my life story with ra, other than I went to a very strict diet late
may , cut out sugars , bread etc, started on 9 diff supplements, NOTHING
helped me until I finally broke down and took a couple nsaid’s three days ago ,
two in the am, about 7am , by about 11 the swelling was way down the pain was
also way down. I waited months as you can see , before taking the low road
of NSAID’s, but I was in panic mode , getting desperate, I realize I can’t continue
taking them and am hoping to get a grip on this illness.
If any of this makes any sense to you at all , your observations would be greatly
appreciated, and I may have some questions.
Ps I was totally unable to do any exercise, but found recently that
I could ride my mountain bike so have been doing a whole lot of that,
and it seems to help if only just a little.
Thanks much, Ted
Hi Ted – Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) is an auto-immune medical condition that requires medical attention. I’m neither authorized nor qualified to give you medical advice, however, there are many dietary and lifestyle changes that could help manage some triggers, while your doctor works on managing the symptoms. There is a genetic component to this, but there is not much you can do about that. There is almost always an acute trigger – for some people, it is work-related stress, for others it is other illness or sudden exposure to something else. Managing stress is a key part of the healing. In virtually all people with RA, there is some gut dysbiosis and leaky gut. You may need to consult with an integrative medicine doctor and/or nutritionist who can advise you on how to go about fixing that – it will involve a dramatic change in diet. There are several good books on auto-immunity. Get the books by Dr. Amy Myers and read every work and follow dietary and lifestyle advice strictly.
Please i need to know if taking of increases omega 3 fats can reduce the pro inflammatory effects of omega 6 fats, that is not reducing omega 6 intake but increasing omega 3
Hi Emmanuel – Omega-3 can reduce some of the negative impact of excess Omega-6. However, if you wish to truly impart health benefits, it would be ideal to both reduce Omega-6 and increase Omega-3.
I have been told to drink allot of Chicken Bone Broth for healing Leaky Gut. I am also trying to balance Omega-3 and omega-6.
Does chicken Bone Broth have allot of Omega 6? What should I do?
Hi Gil – chicken dark meat has Omega-6, but bones are not as rich in Omega-6. The benefit of bone broth should far outweigh the small amount of Omega-6. If you are concerned, try making bone broth with bones from grass-fed cows as they have even less Omega-6. Consider collagen powder supplement as well.
I’m a vegetarian since birth but I have a doubt about using flax or chia seeds as an omega 3 source because of the awful ratio of “ala to dha/epa convertible” omega 3 to omega 6 they have.
I mean, you clearly get much more omega 6 than 3 from eating those seeds, so wouldn’t it be actually bad to eat them for the omega balance?
Thanks for the great info,
Hi Jordi – yes, seeds typically contain a lot more Omega-6 than Omega-3. So if you’re trying to improve your Omega-6 to Omega-3 balance, avoiding seeds and seed oils is a good idea. Also, most seeds gave ALA Omega-3, which doesn’t convert to EPA very well and hardly at all to DHA. So, if you’re a vegetarian, I suggest you look into Algae-derived DHA supplements.
Great article. Is it possible that excessive whole grains, nuts and low seafood intake could create an imbalanced omega ratio? 25% linoleic acid was discovered via a EFA blood test.
Hi Ct – whole grains do not have Omega-6, but they are eventually processed into sugar and that can cause a lot of issues. Nuts are high in Omega-6 as well as other several other essential nutrients. So, nuts are worth keeping in the diet, as long as you eat no more than a handful per day. The culprit for most people is their cooking oil and restaurant food cooked in soybean or corn oils.
Have chronic inflammation and yet, don’t like deep fried anything, never used other oils than olive, not into junkfood, not into sweets either, have margarine twice a month, chicken twice a week, buy 80% on the outskirts of the supermarket and about 20% from the aisles… Really where else must I cut.
Hi Johanne – that’s a good description of your diet. Superficially, it all looks good, but if you have chronic inflammation, there are, I am certain, areas where you can make changes. Obviously, there is only so much I can do on a comments section of a blog! But I’d start with an Integrative Medicine MD and dietitian who follows an integrative and ancestral outlook. My suspicion is that you’d have to work on your gut health – lots of inflammation comes from poor gut health, not just high sugar and Omega-6 intake. Addressing things like dysbiosis and leaky gut will help a lot. Start with gradually increasing foods with prebiotic fibers.
You mentioned you had your AA/EPA levels tested at labs and also with a DIY test kit.
I am not from the US. So im wondering would any blood test lab that so called claim to test AA/EPA levels would do? Or would a DIY test kit derives better more accurate result?
What kind of index test category should i make sure a test has to know if its a complete / good test result?
I live in Hong Kong. Just wondering since omegavia has a authorized distributor here, do you happen to know or could recommend where to do this test?
My parents lives in Malaysia, would like to have them tested on this as well.
i found this sample test result from a website in malaysia.
does this consider a good test result?
Hi Jasica – you should contact OmegaQuant. They are in the US. They are the original patent holder of the test. It is a simple pin prick test – you get a drop or two of blood and put it on a paper blot. You can then mail the paper in the mail and they will send you the results via email. It’s quite simple and reliable. Costs about US$50.
Isn’t mustard oil have the ideal ratio of Omega 3: Omega 6 fatty acids?
I read this in some articles!!
No, mustard oil has too much Omega-6. Most seed oils do.
My son is autistic. He is asked to avoid omega 6 due to inflammation problem. Chicken is the only meat he eats. Kindly suggest if homemade chicken curry cooked in coconut oil will be fine or not.
Hi Betzy – chicken cooked in coconut oil is perfectly fine. Generally aim for a variety of vegetables to help increase fiber content in diet, more outdoor play, and direct sun exposure all all good ideas.
Thank you for your response .
Does eating one tablespoon of almond butter (made after soaking and peeling )daily ok?
And is cold pressed mustard oil good for cooking?
Hi Zeba – one tablespoon of almost butter is fine. However, I don’t care for seed oils like mustard oil as they are too high in Omega-6.
How can you say all the following oils are the same?
The issue isn’t the amount of omega 6 but the type of omega 6. Omega 6 oils are all your cooking oils and all have been adulterated or processed (margerine/crisco) to prevent oxidation and spoilage of food. This is the exact opposite of what you want to happen in the body. You want the oil unadulterated and unprocessed so that it works as an oxygen magnet.
You body is made of approximately 100 trillion cells and every one of them has a bi-lipid membrane that is fifty percent fat. Out of those fats, 25% to 33% – one-quarter to one-third – consists of linoleic acid. It is the structure of every cell you have. Also, the mitochondria that makes your energy is full of linoleic acid.
The issue is processed vs unprocessed.
You can google any known health ailment and linoleic acid and the key is unadulterated/unprocessed linoleic acid…..not omega 3.
I’ll leave you with a great study – Differential effects of adulterated versus unadulterated forms of linoleic acid on cardiovascular health
Hi Mike – my issue with seed oils is not just that they are high in Omega-6, but we are overloaded with Omega-6.
If our diet and bodies were not already high in Omega-6, I would have no problems with relatively fresh vegetable oils. After all, Omega-6 is essential. Our bodies need Omega-6. My issues specifically are two things:
1) The ratio of Omega-6 to 3 is higher than it has ever been since humans have been around. This is unprecedented and points to risk, not benefit.
2) When Omega-3 or 6 gets oxidized, it is potentially harmful. With an overload of Omega-6, especially heat treated (or processed), oxidation and its secondary effects such as oxidized LDL become problematic.
Knowing all this, I still eat restaurant-cooked foods…even though they are virtually all cooked in over-heated and multiple-re-heated seed oils. Why? Because some of our favorite foods are made in restaurants. I try to be good 90% of the time. For the sake of mental health and fun, we can all let our guard down 10% of the time.
Raw or unprocessed is irrelevant. It’s too much of a good thing.
What about Linoleic Acid in skin care?
Hi Mohamed – there is an excess of Linoleic Acid in our diet. If were were deficient in Omega-6, like we are with Omega-3, I would be tell everyone to eat more seeds to get more Omega-6. But that is not the case – we are overdosed on Omega-6. So no need for any extra Linoleic Acid for skin or other functions.
I have just had my omega 3 to 6 ratio tested and it was 15:1! This is after not eating any seed oils for about 3 months. I’m shocked that it was still so high the ratio. Im still eating lots of pork, chicken, dairy and eggs however, but was expecting the ratio to be much lower.
Exactly how do you get it down closer to 1:1?
Hi Marc – you’re right…that does seem a little off. Did you do a finger-prick Omega-3 Index test? If so, you may want to do it one more time to confirm that the ratio is correct.
Besides an error is measurement, there are a couple of ways to get this rather unusual ratio:
1. You are eating an awful lot of Omega-3 – either as seafood or fish oil supplements.
2. You are not eating anywhere near as much Omega-6 as you think.
Typically, chicken and eggs will add a fair amount of Omega-6 into your diet. So will eating nuts. Both, poultry and nuts, are nutrient-rich and perfectly good things to have in your diet.
I still would not consume seed oils, but revisit your source of both Omega-3 and 6. The answer is obviously in your diet or testing accuracy – without knowing your diet intimately, I can only guess. BTW, you don’t need to be at a 1:1 ratio. There are many healthy diets that have 2 or 3X as much Omega-6 as 3. So, you may wish to broaden your opinion on what constitutes an optimal 6:3 ratio, just to make things easy on yourself.
Is there anything that will help
Absorb the omega 6s if I consume too much?
Hi Sheila – no.
What about Black seed oil? I take this oil for colitis and have never gained a pound in 10 years. Still 140 for a male is this OK. Its high in omega 6. Bill
Hi Bill – black seed or black cumin oil seems to be popular with some people. There is some emerging evidence that suggests that it may be helpful for some conditions, but I am not fully convinced yet. While there may be some benefits, I cannot ignore the fact that most seed oils are too high in Omega-6 and partly offsets many of the benefits…at least to me.
I like your blog. I might find it difficult to cut out bread completely- can you tell me if potato bread or rye bread is better than wheat? Is whole grain worse than regular wheat bread?
Hi David – I completely get that it is difficult to quit eating bread. It might help to look at the two reasons why we tell our customers/readers to avoid bread.
First is that bread is a ‘high glycemic’ food. In other words, it will spike your blood sugar/glucose levels. There isn’t much difference between whole grain versus plain ol’ white bread when it comes to what it does to your blood sugar levels. Everyone…absolutely everyone, needs to reduce or eliminate foods that spike blood sugar. So, potato bread and rye bread are both going to spike blood sugar as much as regular wheat bread.
Second is the gut lining damage caused by wheat proteins like gluten. Both wheat and rye contain gluten and some other gut-damaging proteins. If you have celiac, then these should definitely and permanently be off your plate. Most people do not have such a severe reaction to gluten. Even people who are not diagnosed as having celiac sometimes react negatively to gluten. It’s not critical, but usually a good idea to reduce or eliminate gluten from our diet. The only upside to eating gluten-containing foods is that they’re delicious. Can’t argue with that. The downsides are plentiful – even if you do not have celiac issues, gluten can harm your gut lining…and it’s a very poorly digested substance. So, you’re not nourishing the body with gluten or other wheat proteins.
Potato bread may not have any gluten (check the ingredients) but it will certainly goose your blood sugar.
I am most impressed that the discussion here continues after 7 years, and that it continues to be relevant.
Thank you for your persistance.
Thank you, Frank. I appreciate your note. We’ve been a bit lazy about publishing new blogs and articles, but the Question & Answers section is still alive and well. This is because most of us here at OmegaVia are passionate about health and nutrition and we’d do this even if we weren’t getting paid. 🙂
Hi there! I really hope this chat is still open. I wanted to see if anyone would know why my Omega 6 level came back so high when I don’t even eat much of it at all. Literally, I am working through some leaky gut and sibo issues and I have been on a very restrictive diet for quiet a while. I don’t use oils, don’t eat nuts or seeds, no eggs, no soy and I eat chicken every once in a while. The biggest difference since my last test was starting to take quite a lot of Omega 3 fish oils. My numbers are back up to normal range with that now, but this high Omega 6 is baffling to me. Any ideas? Would love to hear them! Thanks
Hi Linn – I assume you got your Omega-6 to Omega-3 ratio done using a finger prick Omega-3 index test. Those are fairly accurate.
Couple of things to keep in mind:
1) Omega-6 levels are very slow to come down. Even if you stop consuming them like before, it will take a while (sometimes a year plus) to see numbers go down.
2) Unless I know what you are/were eating, it’s hard to say why your Omega-6 numbers are still high.
Having said that, if you’re getting a little extra Omega-6 from nuts and eggs, I would not worry about it. Restaurant-cooked foods are a big source too but the Omega-6 in restaurant foods are from soy/corn oil. If you’re not consuming processed seed oils, you’ve adequately received the Omega-6 message and you’ll eventually bring your Omega-6 numbers lower.
Eggs and nuts should not be painted with the same brush as seed oils. My suggestion is to stick with your diet. Test again in a year. If your Omega-6 numbers are lower, I’d reintroduce eggs and nuts.
Hi what about MCT oil ? Is it the same as coconut oil ?
Hi David – yes, MCT is similar to coconut oil in its Omega-6 content.
I moved through the comments fairly quickly, so I may have missed it; did you get results on this: “I use Bertolli Extra Light. I’m having this oil analyzed at UC Davis to find out its exact Omega-6 content. I’ll share results here when I have it”?
Hi Dick – yes, we tested it at the UC Davis lab as mentioned. That was a few years ago. Fortunately, it was mostly Oleic acid with very little Omega-6. We use this oil generously and daily in my household.
I assume Bertolli hasn’t had a change in ethics since our test. They are a well-known brand and have too much to lose if they begin adulterating, so I think they’d keep their customer promise. Adulteration is olive oils is a quite common and it’d be hard to tell if olive oil was cut with high-oleic sunflower or safflower oils.
I use Extra Virgin olive oil for salads because the first presses have more healthy polyphenols which could get damaged from high-heat cooking.
Thanks. I use EVOO & Extra Light the same way (although I’ll confess to using Extra Light in a few places where I just don’t want the full flavor of EVOO).
Would bacon grease be high LA since it is pork? thank you
Hi Lisa – bacon is low in Linoleic Acid (LA). A novel way to describe bacon grease is 80% olive oil mixed with 20% butter. It is surprisingly similar to olive oil but bacon grease and lard have a unjustified bad reputation and that’s unlikely to change any time soon. I suggest you don’t seek out bacon fat but certainly no need to actively avoid it like we would trans fats.