Omega 6 Bad!…Omega 3 Good!!!

Anthropological research suggests that our ancestors thrived on a diet with an Omega-6 to Omega-3 ratio of approximately 1:1.

Today, our Western diet, has skewed that ratio of Omega-6 to Omega-3 essential fatty acids (EFA) to between 15:1 and 16.7:1.

So what does that mean?

The Science

Current research tells us that Omega-6 fatty acids are the cause of many of our Western diseases, including cardiovascular disease, cancer, inflammatory and autoimmune diseases. The researchers believe this for a few reasons.

1.    Because of how Omega-6 fatty acids are broken down by your body, they are more likely than the Omega-3s to produce pro-inflammatory ‘eicosanoids‘. In fact, many of the drugs used to treat and manage these conditions work by blocking the effects of the potent Omega−6 fat, Arachidonic Acid,

That’s Bad.

2.    The eicosanoids made from Omega-3 fatty acids are mainly anti-inflammatory.

That’s Good

3.    Omega-6 and Omega-3 fatty acids have to compete with each other in order for them to be transformed from fatty acids into eicosanoids. So, when the ratio of Omega 6 to Omega 3 was 1:1, it was a fair fight. Now that it is 15 or 16:1, the Omega-6s win the fight and the result is increased inflammation and disease.

That’s Very Bad.

So What Do I Do?

Increase your consumption of Omega-3 foods and supplements and reduce your consumption of Omega-6 foods and supplements.

It would also not be a bad idea to discuss this plan with your doctor. Especially if you are taking drugs for any condition that may be affected by Omega-3s and Omega-6s.

Omega-3 Foods & Supplements

Additional foods high in Omega-6 from

Omega-6 Foods & Supplements

It’s not hard to find foods high in Omega-6 in our Western diet. Here are some of the worst offenders.

  • Cooking Oils – sunflower, safflower, corn, cottonseed, and soybean
  • Egg yolks
  • Grain fed meats, particularly organ meats
  • Farm raised fish
  • All manner of processed foods

Additional foods high in Omega-6 from

Keep in mind, Omega-6 is not all bad. The problem is that due to the type of foods we eat, we have thrown the balance between Omega-6 and Omega-3 completely out of whack.

What Happens If I Take My Fish Oils?

  • You may reduce your risk of the eye disease – age-related macular degeneration (AMD)
  • You may reduce your risk of asthma and allergies.
  • You may reduce your risk of clogged arteries, even if you have other risk factors for heart disease.
  • You may prevent diabetic complications such as: myocardial infarction and stroke due to atherosclerosis, retinopathy, end-stage renal disease, debilitating neuropathies, poor wound healing, enhanced risk of infection, and periodontal disease.
  • You may reduce your risk of memory loss and stroke in your old age.
  • You may improve your cognition and memory while helping to fight against such mental disorders as depression and mood disorders, schizophrenia, and dementia.

What Happens If I Don’t?

The opposite of above.

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  1. Thanks for the video link Susan.

    Good luck with the book.

    Mark – I think you would appreciate the video.

  2. Nice post! We’re trying to increase our Omega-3 consumption, but it can be daunting when you don’t care for fish. Thank goodness for fish oil capsules!

  3. Two brief thoughts.

    1. One of the reasons why the essential balance between Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids has been disruped stems from how our foods are processed and manufactured.

    2. A few fish we tend to overlook when we’re looking for ways to increase our Omega-3 consumption: Sardines and Anchovies.

  4. Awesome post. There is so much research and information about fish oil nowadays – I have all my personal training clients taking it now and the results are significant. It isn’t the cheapest stuff to take but the better quality means you can be sure you are taking in the oil and not the mercury – which can be bad in a whole new way 😦

    Great post! Thanks for writing about this!

  5. We take Carlson fish oils once/day and have no arthritic pain. Two other people I know took them 3 times/day and within 2 days had no more arthritic pain. It works that fast.
    Have been wondering why eggs are inflammatory and now understand. We have switched to the Irish oat meal every a.m. and do not get that sluggish feeling anymore plus our elimination is very good now. We have cut back on meat quite a bit and eat fish 2-3 x’s week plus meat substitute plus veggie meals. I am always looking for nutritional ideas.

  6. Thanks for posting this information. I agree that the ratio of omega 3 to omega 6 needs to be addressed if we are trying to achieve a healthier state. Unfortunately, the prevalence of processed foods as increased the amount of omega 6 in the everyday Westernized diet. We can take some cues from other countries by increasing our intake of fatty fish, fresh vegetables and fruits.

  7. Chia! About a 3:1 ratio (of Omega 3 to 6). You don’t have to keep it in the fridge. never tastes fishy (unlike flax, at times). High in fiber. high in other stuff I forget about. I always put some in my shakes. And has a fascinating history which you can learn about online.

  8. When should I take my Fish Oil supplement? Every morning? After Workout? Does it even matter?

  9. Haven’t seen any research indicating any advantage to timing your Omega 3 intake…I take it before bed

  10. […] month, there is new research highlighting the health benefits of Omega 3s. At the present time, the best & most affordable source of Omega 3s are fish oils. Vegetarians […]

  11. Ok. I know after looking all over the internet, that my son and I are the exception to the rule, but I need to understand why. It has happened twice now where I have taken krill oil or a fish oil and had a severe increase in joint pain. My son has JRA (juvenile rheumatoid arthritis) and Aspergers (a form of autism ) both of these were made worse on the krill oil after one month. I realized this is what was causing his problems when we ran out of the pill and I hadn’t had a chance to buy more. Suddenly his pain improved and his behavior did as well. This is opposite from what I read online about this supplement. What gives?

  12. […] the rest of the post by clicking the link to Heath Habits. To cut to the chase and buy omega 3 supplements right now, click here and start […]

  13. I have some days since i search informations about Omega 3 and this article is definetly on top of my list, verry good!!!
    Thanks for sharing

  14. Just have to throw this in there. It is important to realize that Omega 6 fatty acids are just as important as Omega 3 fatty acids. The problem we have is that we consume too many Omega 6s and not enough Omega 3s. We need both, but we need them in a much lower ratio than what a traditional western diet provides. I think the ideal is about 4:1…and I have seen our ratio estimated as high as 20:1.

    The other thing I will say about Omega 3s. While you can certainly take a fish oil supplement…and there is a lot of research out there now looking at the benefits of Omega 3s…simply taking a supplement doesn’t help to displace over-consumption of some of the Omega 6 rich foods. Most people would probably benefit by eating more fish and having that fish diplace an omega 6 rich food. Taking the supplement won’t do that. It also just happens that most fish is also extremely high in vitamin D, another supplement that is being heavily pushed.

    Omega 3 is also readily found in walnuts, flaxseed, and a bunch of other nuts and foods in smaller amounts (all things we would do good to add to our diet). It should be noted though that the omega 3s found in plant sources is ALA. And while ALA is a precusor to DHA and EPA (the two forms of omega 3s which has been more heavily studied) it’s conversion factor is low and dependent on lots of things. For example the amount of saturated fat in the diet can impact the conversion rate (again, taking supplements do not necessarily displace other foods). Many researchers believe that ALA will prove to have some of the same benefits as EPA and DHA, but most of the research involving the preventive and curative properties of omega 3 oils has been limited to EPA and DHA (or fish oils)

    So though I am not saying someone should not supplement, I am just saying that there is a benefit to not taking supplements and trying to increase Omega 3s in the diet relative to omega 6s. One thing that seems to be becoming increasingly more apparent in the literature/research is that isolating nutrients from their original food source has significantly less benefits than consuming from foods…so in that sense…”food” for thought.

  15. Egg yolks themselves aren’t a great source of “bad” omega 6’s unless they’re the general eggs from chickens pumped full of hormones and antibiotics not to mention a terrible diet. If you can get your hands on a cage free free range organic egg you’ll be able to get yourself some omega threes along with all the benefits of a healthy yolk!

  16. Fascinating. So we've come full circle and so butter it seems is the best stuff to put on our bread! How ironic. I thought since the trans fats are now gone from margarine it was ok. Apparently not! No more margarine because all of them use plant oils!

  17. what humbug. just concentrate on your physiological diet which should be lots of fruit, vegetables, salads, some nuts. leave the fish and seed oils alone as both of these are in no way concerned with our physiology. it is like trying to correct one bad habit (vegetable oils) with another (fish oils)

  18. all I know FOR SURE now is when I eat anything with omega six oils in it I get chronic foot pain It makes a huge difference in my pain level I wonder how many other people are affected with pain and not knowing it has something to do with diet and specificly omega six oils

  19. We try to make our decisions at the point of purchase and stick with fresh, mostly organic produce. With enough fresh veggies we get a much better balance in our total nutrition. The oils seem to me to be in the condiments, more than the basic foods. So, when you have salad, are you tasting salad or dressing? We vote that you taste the salad and not worry about oils.

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