What Everyone Should Know about Omega 3 to 6 Ratios
One of the hottest topics in nutrition science today concerns Omega 3 to Omega 6 ratios. You’ve got sources like Dr. Oz, paleo diet advocates, and all sorts of bloggers saying that we need to “optimize our Omega 3:6 ratios.” I’m going to do my best to explain what this means to health in simple terms, and whether you should really worry about it.
Omega 6 Causes Inflammation
Ancestral evidence shows that humans evolved on a diet where Omega 3 and Omega 6 were in a 1:1 ratio. Today, the typical Westerner consumes 14 to 25 times more Omega 6 than Omega 3. As mentioned before, Omega 6 causes inflammation whereas Omega 3 reduces inflammation. Researchers believe that this imbalance of Omega 3:6 is causing an inflammatory response in the body.
Inflammation is a root cause of numerous diseases and disorders common in the Western world. These range from arthritis to heart disease to asthma. Yes, there is a huge amount of research which shows that diets high in Omega 6 but low in Omega 3 are linked to these diseases. As a result, you’ve got experts recommending that we should consume Omega 3:6 in a 1:4 ratio, or even strive for a 1:1 ratio. You’d pretty much have to eat nothing but cold-water fish and flax seeds to meet that ratio though.
Before you get too worried about your Omega 3:6 ratios, bear in mind that the evidence mostly shows that it is Omega 6 from processed food which is to blame. When the Omega 6 is from natural foods, it doesn’t seem to have a negative effect on health.
For example: 1oz of sesame seeds contain 105mg of Omega 3 and 5,985mg of Omega 6. That’s a 1:57 ratio! Yet, there is evidence that shows sesame seeds reduce inflammation. Nutrition isn’t as simple as dubbing something pro-inflammatory or anti-inflammatory. Other components of sesame seeds affect the inflammatory response; it isn’t just Omega 3 and Omega 6.
The bottom line? If you are eating natural, unprocessed foods, don’t worry too much about getting the right ratio of Omega 3:6 – at least as far as inflammation goes.
Omega 3 Conversion
The second part of the Omega 3:6 ratio controversy has to do with conversion. As talked about in this article about the role of essential fatty acids, the body converts Omega 6 into AA, and Omega 3 into DHA and EPA. Both DHA and EPA are very important to our health, and there are virtually no food sources of them.
Omega 3 and Omega 6 use the same enzymes to do the conversion. That means they are competing with each other. If you consume a lot of Omega 6 with your Omega 3, then your body isn’t going to be able to convert as much of it into EPA and DHA. Without the right Omega 3 to 6 ratio, a deficiency in DHA and EPA could occur!
To meet DHA and EPA recommendations, you should strive to exceed the RDA for Omega 3 while simultaneously keeping their Omega 6 intake low.
Read this post to learn the best sources of Omega 3. They all have good Omega 3 to 6 ratios for optimal conversion to DHA and EPA.
Omega 3 and DHA Supplements
It is always best to get your nutrients from food first. But, if you are worried that you aren’t getting enough EPA or DHA, you can use supplements as a fallback. These are all derived from plants or algae, so there is no need to worry about mercury 🙂
Deva Omega 3, DHA-EPA (Algae)
200mg vegan softgels
$28.38 for 90ct
500mg Omega-3s, DHA + EPA
$20.25 for 60ct
Spectrum Vegetarian DHA
125mg Omega 3 + 120mg DHA
$16.48 for 90ct
Full disclaimer that I get a kickback from Amazon if you buy these! So, if you were going to buy supplements anyway, it is like giving back to us 🙂 Thanks!