Commencing in the late 1970s a few medical journals started reporting on Omega-3 fatty acids.  Thus launched the beginning of what has now resulted in literally tens of thousands of peer-reviewed research reports that show, indicate, and prove the positive role Omega-3 fatty acids play in body function.  Yet in spite of the many thousands of research reports that detail how critical the balance of essential fatty acids (EFAs) is for health, the very important aspect of actually understanding what has been learned about fats is lost on the modern medical profession, most nutritionists, the media, and nearly all of the nutritional commentary everyone reads in books and on Web sites.  Sadly, medical doctors are notorious for knowing no more about nutrition than what you'd read about in the Sunday Supplement.  That's why they never really cure chronic diseases, but only allow people to live with them using drugs and operations as crutches.

In response to this mega-misunderstanding this first article in our series of Omega-3 Essays will lay the ground work for helping you break loose of the conventional wisdom and be one of the few people in our country that actually ends up understanding what all the hoopla is about Omega-3 fatty acids.

In the publication American Society for Clinical Nutrition, Dr. Artemis P. Simopoulos said in 1991 that modern “western diets are deficient in Omega-3 fatty acids compared with the diet on which humans developed and their genetic patterns were established.”

In the same report, it was stated that “Today we know that Omega-3 fatty acids are essential for normal growth and may play an important role in the prevention and treatment of coronary artery disease, hypertension, arthritis, other inflammatory and autoimmune disorders, and cancer.”

In summary, Dr. Simopoulos wrote:  “Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids are not interconvertible in the human body and are important components of practically all cell membranes.  Whereas cellular proteins are genetically determined, the polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA) composition of all cell membranes is to a great extent dependent on the dietary intake.  Therefore appropriate amounts of dietary Omega-6 and Omega-3 fatty acids need to be considered in making dietary recommendations, and these two classes of PUFAs should be distinguished because they are metabolically and functionally distinct and have opposing physiological functions.  Their balance is important for homeostasis and normal development.”

Where the fatty acids come from is important.  Dr. Simopoulos states that “Omega-6 fatty acids are represented by linoleic acid (LA) and Omega-3 fatty acids by "-linolenic acid (LNA).  LA is plentiful in nature and is found in the seeds of most plants except coconut, cocoa, and palm.  LNA on the other hand is found in the chloroplast of green leafy vegetables.”

Man's Diet Takes Big Turn

Dr. Simopoulos continued:  “On the basis of estimates from studies in Paleolithic nutrition and modern-day hunter-gatherer populations, humans evolved on a diet that was much lower in saturated fatty acids than is today's diet.  Furthermore, the diet contained small but roughly equal amounts of Omega-6 and Omega-3 PUFAs.”

In the past 100 years there has been a rapid and unprecedented change in man's diet.  The modern vegetable oil industry was developed, and it is based on oil from seeds rich in Omega-6 fatty acids.  Modern agriculture increased production by emphasizing grain feeds for domestic livestock, and grains are rich in Omega-6 fatty acids.  Therefore, aggressive, industrialized agricultural management techniques have decreased the Omega-3 fatty acid content in many foods:  “green leafy vegetables, animal meats, eggs, and even fish.”

This imbalance where Omega-6 fatty acid levels exceed Omega-3 fatty acid levels can be seen by comparing wild edible plants and wild animals and birds with products of modern agriculture.  Products of modern agriculture frequently have drastically lower Omega-3 fatty acid levels.  It is estimated that man evolved with an Omega-6 to Omega-3 ratio of one to one from both meat and vegetable sources.  This is also true for the entire animal kingdom and is the reason why proper body function (for all animal life) is so dependent on the proper balance of essential fatty acids in the foods they eat.  Today the modern processed vegetable sources have an estimated ratio of 10 to one.  The modern diet of meat, fish, chicken, and vegetable oils has a ratio estimated to be 20 or 25 to one!

With Dr. Norman Salem, Jr., Dr. Simopoulos also wrote an article in The New England Journal of Medicine about Omega-3 fatty acids in chicken eggs that gives producers of beef for the American consumer something to ponder over.  His comments certainly suggest that not only are we what we eat, but so are our livestock.

Of Eggs and Bison

“In 1986, we published our findings on purslane, indicating that it is the richest source of Omega-3 fatty acids of any green leafy vegetable yet examined.

“On the Ampelistra farm in Greece, purslane is plentiful and grows wild; the chickens make a feast of it, along with insects and lots of fresh green grass, supplemented with fresh and dried figs, barley flour, and small amounts of corn.  We were therefore interested in the Omega-3 fatty acid content of the eggs from these hens.  As we expected, the eggs contained substantial amounts of Omega-3 fatty acids.”

The Greek egg had a Omega-6 to Omega-3 ratio of 1.3 to one whereas the “supermarket egg” had a ratio of 19.4 to one.

The article went on to describe how modern agriculture's emphasis on increased production has led to the development of chicken feed that is being reflected in the out-of-balance ratio of fatty acids in the “supermarket egg.”

North Dakota State University conducted a study on the nutritional differences between nearly grass-fed and grain-fed bison.  The results of that study closely followed that of the egg studies.  The "nearly grass-fed" bison had Omega-6 to Omega-3 ratios of 4.0 to one, and the grain-fed bison had ratios of 21 to one.

In 1998 the University of Guelph, in Guelph, Ontario, Canada published their study on the effects of forage versus grain feeding on the fatty acid composition of cattle.  Cattle fed grain for 120 days (40 fewer days than typical for feedlot cattle) had Omega-6 to Omega-3 ratios of 11 to one.  Forage-fed (alfalfa hay) cattle had Omega-6 to Omega-3 ratios of 3 to one.  Additional studies by others clearly show that the longer cattle are fed grain, the greater the fatty acid imbalance.  For instance, after 200 days in the feedlot grain-fed cattle have Omega-6 to Omega-3 ratios that exceed 20 to one!  Many cattle are fed 200 days or more in the United States.  The typical stay in a feedlot is about 160 days.

With the scientific data that has been published concerning Omega-6 and Omega-3 fatty acids, we must assume grass-fed beef is far better for human nutrition than grain-fed beef because it replicates the food of the Hunter Gatherer or Caveman.  If so, then having access to grass-fed beef can be very beneficial for one's health.  And since our grass-fed beef has been raised naturally, without artificial hormones, and without having been fed antibiotics during the final phase of their lives, they have added psychological benefits.

American consumers are becoming ever more conscious of their environment.  They also are becoming more conscious about what they eat.  Slanker Grass-Fed Meat wants to be in the forefront in answering the consumers’ legitimate health concerns.  So, we raise and market grass-fed beef the natural, old-fashioned way.  Plus here in our Omega-3 Essay section of our Web site we provide numerous articles clarifying what is and is not the proper way to eat for optimizing one's health.  This article is only a brief introduction to the benefits of grass-fed meats.

Ted Slanker
Slanker Grass-Fed Meat