Extra Fat Please!

The consumption of essential fatty acids are critical in our diet.  However, receiving them in a proper ratio is also very important to our diet.  Although, there is not a set ratio established, a lower ratio of omega- 6: omega- 3 is recommended.  An article I found stated that humans evolved on a diet with a ratio of 1:1 and currently, the Western diet has a ratio of 15:1- 16.7:1. (1).  This drastic increase leads to health problems like cardiovascular disease, inflammation, and autoimmune disease.   A review showed that the exact ratio could depend on the person’s disease state.  For example, they state that a ratio of 4:1 in patients with cardiovascular disease decreased mortality by 70%.  They also found that reducing the ratio to 2.5:1 reduced rectal cell proliferation in patients with colorectal cancer (1).

With that information, where can we find foods with lower ratios to improve our health?  When searching for this answer, I found that these fatty acids compete with one another for absorption by the enzyme ∆6- desaturase.  It stated that too high of an intake of omega-6 would reduce the amount of  ∆6- desaturase and interfere with the absorption of omega- 3.  They recommended consuming about 0.5- 2% of the daily calories from omega- 3 fatty acids and about 0.6-1.2% from omega- 6 fatty acids (2).  This would create that 1:1 ratio we evolved from.

The best ways to obtain these levels are through animal foods that are high in omega- 3, both EPA and DHA.  A source suggests consuming grass fed, due to the fact when animals are fed grain based with soy and corn, it reduces their omega-3 content and increases their omega- 6 content (3).  Another option is omega- 3 enriched eggs and of course salmon is also a great source.  It is recommended to eat seafood twice a week and consider wild caught fish rather than farm raised (3).  When considering vegetarian diets, plant sources like flax and chia seeds are recommended as good sources of these fats.  I always think of the oil charts that are in texts books. They breakdown oils by the different types of fats found in them like the one pictured with this article.  You can see that flaxseed oil has the highest percentage of omega-3 by far, in fact 57%.  This would be a great suggestion to a vegetarian on incorporating this oil in their diet.

No matter what your dietary patterns may be, take simple steps to adding more omega 3 fatty acids into your daily intake.  Here are a few ideas:

  • Add chia seeds to yogurt or smoothies
  • Add flaxseeds to peanut butter and toast
  • Replace beef burgers with salmon burgers
  • Switch to omega- 3 fortified eggs
  • Cook with flaxseed oil
  1. The importance of the ratio of omega-6/omega-3 essential fatty acids. 2002. Biomed Pharmacother. 56(8):365-79.  Accessed February 11, 2015.  http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12442909


  1. The importance of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. 2008.  European Food Information Counsel.  Accessed February 11, 2015.  http://www.eufic.org/article/en/artid/The-importance-of-omega-3-and-omega-6-fatty-acids/


  1. Gunnars K. How to Optimize Your Omega-6 to Omega-3 Ratio. Authority Nutrition: An Evidence- Based Approach.  Accessed February 11, 2015.  http://authoritynutrition.com/optimize-omega-6-omega-3-ratio/

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