Updated: Sep 27
STANDARD DISCLAIMER: this is not medical advice and you should consult with your medical provider before you make any change.
Omega 6 and Omega 3 fatty acids have a powerful effect, for good and bad on your health. Yet most people know nothing about these powerful substances. Here is the basic information everybody needs.
Omega 6 fatty acids stimulate your immune system. However, if you eat too much omega 6 fatty acids, it promotes inflammation. Inflammation is now understood to cause, or contribute to all major illnesses. Reduce the inflammation, and the chronic diseases Americans suffer from, go away altogether, or at least improve.
Omega 3 fatty acids do the opposite of the omega 6s. Omega 3 fatty acids reduce inflammation, or prevent it from happening to begin with. Hence omega 3 fatty acids, in sufficient quantity, can be used to treat or prevent most of the chronic illnesses that plague Americans.
What are the odds that you are getting the right amount of much omega 3s and 6s? Pretty much it is 100% guaranteed that you are not. Historically, humans consumed about equal amounts of each one, IE a 1:1 ratio between omega 6 and omega 3. With the advent of modern technology we gained the ability to extract omega 6 rich vegetable oils, the main sources of omega 6 fatty acids. The ratio by 1985, was up to 10:1. Today, estimates vary but most experts agree we currently consume at least 15 times as much of the pro-inflammatory omega 6 as we consume of the anti-inflammatory omega 3, and some people consume 25 times as much.
Prior to the 1900s, when heart disease was practically nonexistent, we consumed virtually no vegetable oil. Hence our omega 6:3 ratio was the very healthy 1:1. Since then we also decreased fish consumption, the main source of omega 3s. Now that the ratio is somewhere between 15:1 and 25:1, heart disease is the number 1 killer and everybody has sore joints, back pain, headaches and allergies. Even depression has been found to be related to inflammation in the nervous system and reducing that inflammation reduces the depression. Inflammation, truly is the curse of our time. Eating the correct ratio of omega 6 and omega 3 fatty acids is the key to staying healthy.
Why is our omega 6 level so high? According to a study published in 2011 in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, our soybean oil consumption alone has increased 1000 fold since 1909. Soybean oil is our major source of omega 6 fatty acids, and Americans now get almost 20% of their calories from soybean oil (not a typo, 20%!), which is ubiquitous in processed foods. Other sources of omega 6 fatty acids include corn oil, safflower oil, cottonseed oil, sunflower oil, peanut oil, and sesame oil. These oils were never available to humans until the 20th century, because we simply didn’t have the technology to extract them.
Correcting the omega 6:3 ratio (decreasing omega 6 and/or increasing omega 3) reverses the major chronic illnesses of Americans. Published studies have shown that:
a ratio of omega 6 to omega 3 of 4:1 will decrease the death rate by 70% for people with known heart disease.
A ratio of 2.5:1 reduced the growth of cancer cells in patients with colorectal cancer.
A ratio of 2:1 or 3:1 suppressed inflammation in patients with rheumatoid arthritis, one of the most inflammatory conditions.
A ratio of 5:1 had a beneficial effect on patients with asthma, whereas a ratio of 10:1 aggravated the asthma.
These studies show that omega 3s are a powerful tool for your health. If you get the omega 6 low enough, your health will improve.
A study published in the Pain Journal in 2004 showed that the pain level in mice with injured sciatic nerves was increased with omega 6s and decreased with omega 3s. Multiple recent human studies demonstrated reduced arthritic pain by decreasing the omega 6:3 ratio.
The Federal Government stated:
“Overall, consumption of omega-3 fatty acids, whether from fish or from supplements, reduces all cause mortality...”
No other drug or supplement is known to reduce mortality from all causes!
How to decrease omega-6 and increase omega-3.
Start by supplementing omega-3s. That is the easiest and most effective way to start bringing your omega 6:3 ratio back into balance. You should expect to feel better (less pain and less stiffness) in 2-4 weeks.
Cook with olive oil, canola oil or butter.
Eat salmon and other oily fish frequently. Avoid tilapia and cat fish.
Read every label and don't buy anything with soybean oil or corn oil. There are other oils to avoid as well but soybean and corn oil are the two main culprits.
You need to find a salad dressing that isn't made out of soybean oil. You can find salad dressing that isn't made out of soybean oil, but you will have to read quite a few labels to find a good salad dressing.
Most breads will have soybean oil but if you look hard enough you can find some good choices.
Avoid the Bad Oils: corn oil, soybean oil, safflower oil*, margarine, wheat germ oil, sunflower oil, poppy seed oil, cottonseed oil, palm kernel oil, peanut oil, almond oil, sesame oil
Use the Good Oils: olive oil, canola oil, avocado oil, apricot kernel oil, butter, lard, hazelnut oil, rapeseed oil, high oleic safflower oil*
*High Oleic Safflower Oil is a good oil. But if the label doesn't clearly say "high oleic" it is regular safflower oil and it is high in omega 6s and you should avoid it.
If you have:
neck or back pain,
headaches or migraines,
high blood pressure,
depression or anxiety,
asthma or COPD,
or just want to live longer, you should be reducing omega 6s and supplementing omega 3s.
How to find out what your current omega 6:3 ratio is.
How to pick an Omega 3 supplement and how to find the correct dose.