Store shelves are full of unnecessary nutritional supplements and among the most useless, and potentially dangerous, are those that supplement omega-6. We have far too much omega-6 in our diet already.
Tens of thousands of years ago our hunter-gatherer ancestors were consuming these healthy fats at a ratio of about 1:1. With the implementation of agriculture about 10,000 years ago the ratio shifted to about 4:1 with the major addition of grains to the diet. In today’s diet the ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 is anywhere between 20:1 and 50:1. This massive spike has occurred very recently. Our bodies are not used to this ratio and cannot function properly on it.
This massive spike is largely due to the modern agricultural practice of fattening animals used for meat production with grain (which has a high concentration of omega-6). Farm-raised fish are usually fed corn and soy which are full of omega-6 and devoid of omega-3. Most of the vegetable oils we cook in are saturated in omega-6.
Why is a properly balanced ratio so important? Since the 1970’s there has been an explosion of evidence supporting the many health benefits of omega-3’s. They support heart, joint, skin, eye health, the immune system and the brain. They have been linked to mood and behaviour, which is no surprise since a significant portion of the brain consists of omega-3 fatty acids. There are also preliminary studies linking high levels of omega-6 fatty acids to cognitive decline and weight gain.
How can you correct the imbalance?
In animals fed exclusively on grass the age-old ratio of 4:1 still exists. Plant sources of omega-3 include flaxseed, chia seed, sage, kiwi, lingonberry and purslane (that weed you pull out of your garden every year). Omega-3 eggs (the chickens are fed on flaxseed) is also a good source). The absolute best source of omega-3 is cold-water wild fish such as halibut, mackerel, salmon and tuna. One tin of sardines a week goes a long way towards meeting your omega-3 requirements.
If you can’t adjust your palate to the idea of eating fish, fish oil supplements that have been molecularly distilled to eliminate the environmental toxins that may concentrate in extracted oils are an excellent source of omega-3.
Consuming higher levels of omega-3 is one half of the equation. The other have is lowering your intake of omega-6. Avoid farm-raised fish and grain-fed beef. Cook with vegetable oils only when you want a neutral flavour and forget about those supplements that advertise “omega-3, 6 & 9”.