Omega-3 (n3) fatty acids are critical for better health. Tens of thousands of peer-reviewed studies prove the n3 deficiency is associated with about every chronic disease. There are thousands of reports that indicate more n3 in the diet can suppress symptoms of disease. But too often people start taking n3 supplements but end up quitting because their ailments persist.
The n3 fatty acid deficiency is determined by its relationship to Omega-6 (n6) fatty acids. Both families of essential fats come from food and, for the most part, cannot be synthesized by the body. The optimum essential fatty acid (EFA) relationship, measured in milligrams, is a ratio of 1:1 between n6 and n3. Ratios above 2:1 (excess n6) are associated with more vigorous cancer growth for some cancers. Many other chronic diseases are detectable when the ratio exceeds 4:1. The imbalance is compounded when one fat exceeds the other because the body more readily absorbs the more abundant fat. A diet with a ratio of 4:1 can result in a body’s EFA balance of 6:1.
The American food system is based on grain. Ratios for most grains exceed 16:1 which creates an n3 deficiency in most foods and all conventional grain-fed meats. Nuts average 16:1. The more popular cooking and salad oils average 11:1.
Most foods with 1:1 EFA balances are also low in fat. A four-ounce serving of vegetables averages about 58 mg for both n6 and n3 and grass-fed beef about 80 mg. This delicate balance is easily skewed by eating grains, nuts, and oils. One tablespoon (½ ounce) of olive oil has 1,318 mg of n6 and 103 mg of n3 resulting in a 1,215 mg deficit of n3. Other n3 deficits include:
• one conventional egg: 537 mg
• one ounce of oatmeal: 588 mg
• half an avocado: 2,148 mg
• one ounce of almonds: 3,542 mg
• one slice of homemade apple pie: 4,524 mg.
Eat an egg, oatmeal, olive oil on a salad with avocado, nuts, and desert and the daily n3 deficit is 13,872 mg. Taking a 2,500 mg n3 supplement only improves the EFA ratio to 5.5:1 and that imbalance favors the uptake of n6, further skewing the ratio.
Foods with balanced EFAs cannot tip the ratio of foods high in n6. That’s why the daily diet must be 1:1 to result in 1:1. Most dieticians and medical practitioners ignore the 1:1 rule because they do not understand it therefore their n3 recommendations do little in terms of battling chronic disease. It’s why they don’t provide EFA balances for the foods they recommend nor their personal EFA blood lipid balances. They just don’t get it.
Understanding the importance of the EFA ratio is critical. Just eating a few foods with n3 in them or taking a supplement is not enough to overcome huge inputs of n6. The proper EFA ratio comes from eating wild caught seafood, grass-fed meats, n3 meats, and green leafy vegetables while avoiding the high Omega-6 foods that contribute to the n3 deficit.
To your health.
Ted Slanker has been reporting on the fundamentals of nutritional research in publications, television and radio appearances, and at conferences since 1999. He condenses complex studies into the basics required for health and well-being. His eBook, The Real Diet of Man, is available online.
For additional reading:
Mayo Clinic Dosage Report: Omega-3 fatty acids, fish oil, alpha-linolenic acid (One gram is 1,000 mg.)