The Omega6/Omega3 FA Ratio Is A Myth

Is The Omega 3/6 Ratio Perception or Reality?

There’s an excellent report from Food Insight about the legitimacy of health claims made about the Omega6/Omega 3 fatty acid ratio. You have to download the PDF at the link.

There are a lot of graphs/statistics, but it’s excellent if you can slog through it. Highly recommended.

The Omega3/Omega6 ratio

Lots of pundits attribute great importance to the ratio, claiming that it’s the basis of many other health problems.

According to the latter report, all those claims are a crock.

Problems With the Omega3/6 Ratio

Most clinical studies suggest Omega 6 consumption in moderate quantities is good for you, and focusing on the Omega6/3 ratio has the following problems:

1). It says nothing about the absolute intake of either….which is also very important.

2). It doesn’t differentiate between the different types of N-6 and N-3….there are more than one of each.

3). It doesn’t clarify whether it’s a reduction of N-3 fatty acid consumption or  an increase in N-6 consumption that causes the problems.

People purporting the benefits of the ratio are (at best) making an attribution error. The ratio is a symptom of other nutrition habits (like an out of whack meat/plants ratio) that have degenerating effects.

Overly Simplistic Diet Rules

As a general rule, be suspicious of “single variable” eating strategies. Whether it be an ingredient (gluten, fat, lactose, etc) or measurement (n6/n3 ratio, pH, etc).

Your body is complicated, making claims about the importance of a single factor probably false.

Like Einstein said…..“Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler.”

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About Jonathan Bechtel

Owner of Health Kismet, maker of Incredible Greens, a green superfood supplement that combines 35 different raw greens, herbs, probiotics, grasses and fruits into a sweet tasting powder.

Comments

  1. Kristy Thomas says:

    I love this post. Yes, I agree with Einstein that everything should be made simple, but not too simple. I always thought I was supposed to be buying Omega 3-6-9. Doctors seem to think that’s the best, but it always seemed like a marketing thing to me. I mean, why else would they sell Omega 3, 6, and 9 all separately? Hmmm…?

  2. Saying the ratio is a myth is simpler than it should be ;-) The truth is, the biochemical reactions ARE complex. The studies aren’t “a crock”…rather, 99% of the health claims that get pushed to consumers are.

  3. Jonathan Bechtel says:

    @Kristy, I agree that buying different oils separately may not be necessary, especially if you’re eating properly. There are a variety of common foods which are good sources of all 3.

  4. Jonathan Bechtel says:

    @Fish_oil – I wouldn’t argue against the benefits of the oils themselves, per se, but all else being equal, I don’t think the Omega3/6 ratio is all that important. You’re right to distinguish between the claims and the reports, but using the ratio as a metric for diet quality has serious drawbacks.

  5. Kristy Thomas says:

    @Jonathan, that is true! It’s hard to try and figure out which foods are a good source of all 3 oils. I am going to do some research on it now! :)

  6. Hmmm, interesting. “Most clinical studies suggest Omega 6 consumption in moderate quantities is good for you”. I will keep this info in mind next time I am buying my fish oil capsules. I tend to look for the best possible fish oil or cod liver oil I can find. Thanks for helping me in my research :)

  7. Jonathan Bechtel says:

    @kaycemick – no problem! Omega 6 actually has health benefits that are fairly similar (but not exactly the same) as omega 3, and a mix of both is good. If you’re interested in fish oil, i do suggest reading the presentation that I linked to. I found it very informative.

Trackbacks

  1. […] plant oils and veggies. Ditto for the anti-oxidants found in grass-fed beef.  Likewise, there are a lot of reasons to suspect that the Omega6/3 ratio is not all that important to begin with. To make matters worse, a lot of the fatty acid content is lost when cooking, making the […]

  2. […] do not think the omega 3/6 ratio is the be-all-end-all of nutritional well-being.  There are a few reasons to be skeptical about it. But it does play an important role in tipping the scales for certain metabolic see-saws which […]

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