The Ratio of Omega-6 to Omega-3 in Human Diets is Increasingly & Concerningly High
It is well known that diets around the globe are increasingly rich in omega-6 fatty acids, while consumption of omega-3 fatty acids has been on the decline for decades. An article recently published in the Journal of Lipids, “Overconsumption of Omega-6 Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids (PUFAs) versus Deficiency of Omega-3 PUFAs in Modern-Day Diets: The Disturbing Factor for Their “Balanced Antagonistic Metabolic Functions” in the Human Body.” (1) highlights just how out of balance this ratio has become, and why it is cause for attention.
Omega-6 and omega-3 have opposing effects on the body, a healthy balance is key.
Polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) play important roles in the body. They regulate numerous biological functions, including blood pressure and blood clotting to the correct development and functioning of the brain and nervous system. As structural components of cell membranes, they ensure, for example, fluidity of blood vessels and skin. PUFAs also play important roles in the transmission of signals in the body which are important for, among other things, immune regulation and inflammation (2).
Omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids are two classes of PUFAs that both play critical yet opposing functions; their balance favors appropriate growth, development and health. Since these essential fatty acids cannot be made by humans and other mammals, they must be derived from the diet.
Western diets have become extremely heavy in foods containing omega-6 fatty acids, while omega-3 consumption has declined.
Omega-3 fatty acids, DHA and EPA are concentrated in fish and algae, while nuts, eggs, avocados, oily seeds like chia and flax, and the meat of pasture-raised animals can be good sources of ALA. Omega-6 is concentrated in vegetable oils, margarine, and grain-fed animal meats.
Western diet trends over the last several decades have intensified the imbalance between omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids. Consumption of vegetables, fish and oily seeds have declined, while consumption of processed foods containing vegetable oils with higher omega-6 fatty acids have soared. Meanwhile, industrialized livestock production now favors grain-based diets, producing beef and poultry that contain elevated levels of omega-6.
Prior to the development of modern agriculture, the ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 in human diets was in the range of 1-2 to 1. Today, it is averaging 20 to 1 (3).
The ubiquity of vegetable oils in our food system makes rebalancing omega-6: omega-3 ratios through dietary changes difficult. Functional foods and nutritional supplementation can make it easier to consume more long-chain fatty acids.
Nutriterra Total Omega-3 can help restore balance in the omega-6: omega-3 ratio. While typical canola oils still favor omega-6 with a 2:1 ratio, the molecular biologists at Nuseed developed our canola to produce more longer chain omega-3 fatty acids and shift the balance of omega-6: omega-3 to 1:4.
We will collaborate with food and nutrition formulators to increase the availability and consumption of plant-based omega-3.
- Mariamenatu AH & Abdu EM. “Overconsumption of Omega-6 Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids (PUFAs) versus Deficiency of Omega-3 PUFAs in Modern-Day Diets: The Disturbing Factor for Their “Balanced Antagonistic Metabolic Functions” in the Human Body.” J Lipids 2021: 8848161. https://doi.org/10.1155/2021/8848161
- Simopoulos, A.P. The importance of the ω-6/ω-3 Balance in Health and Disease: Evolutionary Aspects of Diet. In Healthy Agriculture, Healthy Nutrition, Healthy People; Simopoulos, A.P., Ed.; Karger: Basel, Switzerland, 2011, 102:10–21.
- Simopoulos AP. An Increase in the Omega-6/Omega-3 Fatty Acid Ratio Increases the Risk for Obesity. Nutrients. 2016; 8(3):128. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu8030128