It may pay to consider what your Omega 3 Omega 6 ratio is.

We talk a lot about Omega 3 essential fatty acids on our website, and for good reason, they’re extremely important to your health, as long as you get enough. But today we wanted to look at Omega 6 fatty acids, and what the Omega 3 Omega 6 ratio is. And how it affects you.

Omega 6 fats are also essential fatty acids. Omega 6 is like Omega 3, we can’t make it in our bodies and so we need to get Omega 6 from our diet. However unlike Omega 3 fatty acids, which 90% if us are deficient in, we are not generally deficient in Omega 6 fats. Omega 6 fats are important for a number of reasons, including for maintenance of growth and for good general health. They are important for maintaining the health of the cells in the brain.

Omega 6 fatty acids can also go by the names n-6 fatty acids, w6 fatty acids and linoleic acids.

So whilst we need Omega 6 EFAs in our diet just like we need Omega 3, most of us get enough, if not too much, or way too much.
Omega 6 oils

Omega 6 fats come from completely different sources than the Omega 3 fatty acids. Omega 6 fats are found in plant sources like many of our oils, particularly corn oil, safflower oil and sunflower oil, sesame oil and peanut oil. Soybean oil is almost all Omega 6 fat.

And because many of these oils are used in the production of many of the processed foods we eat, like margarine, they are also found extensively in a wide range of foods we eat every day.

On top of that our meat is now higher in Omega 6 than it was. In the past our beef came from grass fed animals. Cows that eat grass are higher in Omega 3, because it’s found in grass. But now our animals are mainly grain fed, and as you can see the oils from grains are high in Omega 6. So our meat is now much higher in Omega 6 than it was.

Now on to the Omega 3 Omega 6 ratio. It is thought that some time ago we ate roughly as much Omega 3 as we ate Omega 6, That makes an Omega 3 Omega 6 ratio of 1:1. (And you need to change that.)

However our diets have swung much more in favor of a higher intake of Omega 6, and a much lower intake of Omega 3, from eating less fish and from less Omega 2 in meat.

Some scientists suggest that some of us may have an Omega 6 Omega 3 ratio that is as high as 10 times as much 6 as 3. So as you can see we don’t need any more Omega 6. Some estimates are even that some of us can be eating more than 20 times as much Omega 6 as 3, and we have even seen estimates of a ratio of 30 times as much Omega 6 as 3.

Although not fully understood it is thought that a diet high in 6 and low in 3 can lead to some health problems, and that our Omega 3 Omega 6 ratio should be somewhere much lower than it is now, perhaps around 1:3.

A high ratio, it is thought, can lead to thickening of the blood possibly leading to blood clots, a worsening of some autoimmune diseases and an increase in some inflammatory diseases, and more, including cancer. A lower ratio can is associated with a lower breast cancer risk. And there is a wide range of lifestyle diseases that are thought to be susceptible to a high ratio between the 2, including many that are related to inflammation in the body.

So there are 2 things you need to do if  you want to improve your ratio and lessen your risk of various diseases, some serious. You need to lower your intake of Omega 6 by lowering your intake of processed foods and oils, for instance by changing to good oils such as Olive Oil.

And you need to increase your intake of Omega 3 EFAs, by eating more fish or by daily supplementation with high quality fish oil supplements.

Remember, although all essential fatty acids are essential, that doesn’t mean you don’t get enough of them. It seems clear that we get quite enough Omega 6 fats, and that we need to be getting less of them.

Update: A study was undertaken in 2011 to actually identify how our consumption of Omega 6 has changed in the 20th century. Amongst the authors of the study was Joseph Hibbeln, who was have referred to on this site before. Dr Hibbeln is one of the more well known experts in the field of the health benefits of the Omega 3 fatty acids.

The study confirmed we have said here, that there has been a noticeable increase in the intake of Omega 6 fats over the last century.

In fact it was found that since 1909, where the omega 6 fats (as linoleic acide, the form found in the oils from seeds, which are high on our diet now) provided around 2.3 percent of daily calories, that figure has now increased, since 1999, to 7.2 percent, making a 213 percent increase over that 90 year period.

And there was a decrease in the intake of DHA and EPA.

And the study also noted that the consumption of oil from soybeans increased more than 1000 times, which, according to the authors has “likely decreased tissue concentrations of EPA and DHA during the 20th century”.

To read the study click here.

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