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Omega-3 vs Omega-6

written by Vin Kutty

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Omega-3 vs Omega-6

Lyon Diet Heart Study

Why was this 4-year study suddenly paused after just 1 year?

French scientists gathered 600 people who’d had heart attacks.

Half of them were put on a ‘Mediterranean Diet’ low in Omega-6 and high in Omega-3. (Experimental Group)

And the other half was put on a ‘prudent’ diet with no dietary advice from the scientists. (Control Group)

What they found out was remarkable:

  • There was NO DIFFERENCE in cholesterol levels between groups
  • There was a 70% reduction in death in the Mediterranean Diet Group (Low Omega-6 + High Omega-3)
  • Cardiovascular deaths were decreased by 76% in the Mediterranean Diet Group
  • Stroke, pulmonary embolism and angina were also lower in the Mediterranean Diet group

The study produced such stark differences in results that the scientists felt it was unfair to those in the Control Group! Here is a quote from the American Heart Association about the incident:

Lyon Diet Study

“An intermediate analysis was performed after a minimum follow-up of one year for each patient. The study was stopped at that point because of significant beneficial effects noted in the original group. All patients were invited to the research unit for a final exam, where they were informed of the results.”

Why was there a reduction in deaths even though the cholesterol was the same?

  1. The Mediterranean Diet Group ate 3x as much Omega-3
  2. The Mediterranean Diet Group ate 32% less Omega-6 than Control Group
  3. The Control Group ate a LOT MORE Omega-6
    • Mediterranean Diet Group ate a 4:1 ratio of Omega-6 to Omega-3
    • The Control Group ate 20:1 ratio of Omega-6 to Omega-3 (similar to the typical American diet)

When you hear experts in the media discuss Mediterranean diet, they talk about eating fish, vegetables and olive oil. But no one talks about the LOW Omega-6 levels in this diet!

Several other studies (MRFIT and WHI in particular) have shown that reducing total fat intakes does not reduce cardiovascular mortality. Same goes for reducing saturated fats.

What makes the Lyon Diet study so special is that it is the first major study to REDUCE Omega-6 in the diet while increasing Omega-3.

It’s time to take our eyes off shiny, easily-demonized cholesterol.

And it’s time to focus on two things:

  1. Decreasing Omega-6 consumption
  2. Increasing Omega-3 consumption, along with vegetables, and seafood

You already know how to increase Omega-3 – eat fish, fish oil supplements and green leafy vegetables.

But how do you reduce Omega-6 consumption?

  1. Eliminate corn oil, vegetable oils (soy) and sunflower oils completely for cooking purposes – switch to olive, coconut or butter. Even lard (gasp!) is better than corn oil.
  2. Eliminate any processed and fast-foods that contain corn oil or vegetable oils – unfortunately, this includes most fast-food places and most things sold in boxes at the grocery store

Doing these two things may be the most important thing you do. Not just for poor heart health, but breast health too – a new study with over 72,000 women found that it’s not HOW MUCH but the RATIO of Omega-6 to Omega-3 that makes a difference.

Dr. Artemis Simopoulos wrote a clear and easily understood paper on this subject. You owe it to yourself to read it:
The Importance of the Omega-6/Omega-3 Fatty Acid Ratio
ARTEMIS P. SIMOPOULOS The Center for Genetics, Nutrition and Health, Washington, DC

Here is a table taken from that paper:

Ethnic Differences in
Omega-3 and Omega-6

(Fatty Acid Concentrations in Thrombocyte Phospholipids and Percentage of All Deaths from Cardiovascular Disease)

US Japan Inuit
EPA Omega-3 in Blood 0.5 1.6 8
Ratio of Omega-6 to Omega-3 50 12 1
Death Rate from Poor Heart Health
45 12 7

Omega-3 and Omega-6 ratio in Lyon Diet Study

Here is a link to the published Lyon Diet Study:

Mediterranean Diet, Traditional Risk Factors, and the Rate of Cardiovascular Complications After Myocardial Infarction: Final Report of the Lyon Diet Heart Study

Digressing a tiny little bit here…another European Study called EPIC (European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition) had over 200,000 people keep track of what they ate for 4 years. Those who ate the most omega-6 fatty acids raised the risk of ulcerative colitis by 149%


Taking fish oil supplements helps right your Omega-6 to Omega-3 ratio. But fish oil pills alone will not fix the problem. You will have to drastically cut back on Omega-6 fats from seed oils like corn oil and vegetable (soy) oil, increase seafood, and vegetable consumption (follow a Mediterranean Diet), along with daily exercise if you wish to observe some of the benefits noticed in these population studies.*


* 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. Research suggests that improving omega-3 fat intake from a concentrated source may help support a healthy mood. Some, but not all studies, indicate that 2,000 mg of omega-3 fats daily may offer benefit.

  1. “switch to olive, coconut or butter”
    These are the recommended oils to REDUCE omega-6 intake? Even canola has a much, much better 6-3 ratio. Also, EVERY type of commonly consumed oil has a better ratio than corn oil. Using corn oil as the benchmark is disingenuous.

    • Hi Anon- on average, coconut has 2% Omega-6. Butter has 3% Omega-6. Olive is higher at 8 to 9% Omega-6. Canola has 20-21% Omega-6. Corn oil is almost 60% while sunflower is about 70% Omega-6. Soybean and cottonseed oils are in the same range as corn oil.

      So…if you are trying to reduce a dietary source of inflammation (Omega-6 rich seed oils), then it would make sense to go with the three fats that I recommended – olive, coconut, and butter.

      Thoughts from another source:

  2. I used to comment and recommend dietary advice to lay people a while back. I used to recommend eating the whole egg because baby chicks without any other source of sustenance ate the whole egg and came out just fine. Then the pseudo scientists came aloung and told people to not eat this and not eat that and the people fell in line to their detriment. Most people I spoke with were just like Anon up here who misread what you said and tried to make a fool of you and it backfired. I stand by ‘moderation’ as the key. Whether it be exercise, diet or religious practice. True happiness is a fickle fleeting beast. Most will never achieve it. Rather aspire for the mean between mild happiness and mild pain and fret not either.

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