Column #144

People frequently ask me about how long it takes to lower a high Omega-6 (n-6) to Omega-3 (n-3) essential fatty acid (EFA) ratio. Of course it all depends on an individual’s commitment, but a recent study provides a clue as to how fast it can change.

A couple of years ago Slanker Grass-Fed Meat, along with other Omega-3 food producers, assisted the National Institutes of Health and the U.S. Military by providing food for a study. The published study was titled “Blood Fatty Acid Changes in Healthy Young Americans” by Andrew J. Young, et. al., and it analyzed how far and how fast a good diet changes the EFA ratio.

The report was focused on the importance of a low EFA ratio because “. . . research suggests that increases in n-3 fatty acid consumption may have beneficial effects on a variety of human diseases including cardiovascular and proinflammatory diseases, as well as psychiatric and neurological disorders and possibly obesity.”

Young recruited three volunteer groups to eat different diets for 10 weeks. The Control Group (CON) consumed meals from the U.S. Military’s Standard Garrison Dining Facility Menu. The Experimental Moderate (EXP-Mod) and Experimental-High (EXP-High) Groups ate the same meals as the CONs, but the meats, eggs, oils, and food ingredients were replaced with similar products that had less n-6 and way more n-3. The EXP-High Group was given an additional n-3 boost from smoothies containing 1,000 mg n-3 per serving, whereas other participants received placebo smoothies.

This was a very controlled study with committed volunteers. The high n-3 replacement foods were analyzed and many had EFA ratios of less than 2:1. Some had higher ratios, but most of the replacement foods were big improvements over the standard high n-6 foods served by the military and others such as hospitals, restaurants, and homes throughout America. During the study the participants indicated that all foods were equally palatable and judged suitable for military dining facilities and civilian cafeterias.

The study took the participants’ blood samples at the beginning of the study, at the five-week mark, and again at the end of the ten-week test. The average EFA ratio of the participants was 17:1 when the study started.

The following table shows how quickly the fat profile changed in the blood. Two different testing methods were used. One test used the Plasma Fatty Acid Concentrations analysis and the other the Erythrocyte or Red Blood Cell (RBC) Fatty Acid Concentrations analysis. In general, RBCs will be higher in long chain n-3 and n-6 than plasma. But the trend for changes in the ratios are similar. (The Omega-3 tests I take and recommend analyze a mix of RBCs and plasma.)