How much omega-6 fatty acids do you really need?

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You don’t want omega-6 overload, but you also don’t want omega-6 deficiency. The ideal omega-6:omega-3 index is 2:1 or less. How do you achieve the right balance? It is much more simple than you might think.

To ensure that you are consuming the correct amount of omega-6 vs. omega-3, choose fats such as lard and tallow (provided they are not hydrogenated, if store-bought), coconut oil, palm oil (look for sustainably produced brands), extra-virgin olive oil, avocado oil, cocoa butter, and organic butter and ghee. Avoid corn, sunflower, safflower, cottonseed, rice bran, grapeseed, canola, peanut, soybean, and “vegetable” oils. Also avoid any oil that is hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated, as well as margarine. Linolenic acid–rich oils, such as flaxseed and walnut, are somewhere in between—use them, but don’t rely on them excessively (as they also contain substantial omega-6 oils).

Foods containing plentiful corn oil, canola oil, soybean oil, and other seed oils send omega-6 (linoleic acid) intake ten- or twentyfold higher than it should be. Such high intakes of omega-6 fatty acids contribute to inflammation, depression, heart disease risk, and developmental defects in children, particularly if combined with low levels of omega-3 fatty acids, EPA and DHA, and linolenic acid—a common situation. Intake of such oils has increased so much that the linoleic acid content of fat cells has tripled.

Avoiding processed seed oils helps bring omega-6 intake down while you restore omega-3 fatty acids with fish consumption and fish oil supplements and include some linolenic acid–rich foods, such as walnuts, chia seeds, flaxseed, and pasture-fed meats. Unfortunately, some people have interpreted this advice to mean absolute avoidance of omega-6 fatty acids—but that is flat wrong. In fact, if you were to engage in complete avoidance of omega-6 fatty acids, you would get ill and eventually die. This is because omega-6 fatty acids are essential (the human body cannot make omega-6 fatty acids). Lack of omega-6 leads to skin rashes, impaired immunity, and impaired growth in children. So it is foolhardy to avoid all omega-6 fatty acids.

You don’t want omega-6 overload, but you also don’t want omega-6 deficiency. Once omega-6-heavy seed oils are avoided, modest consumption of the seeds themselves, such as sunflower or pumpkin; walnuts and other nuts; chia seeds; flaxseed; and meats provides a healthy intake of omega-6 fatty acids while not tilting the scales toward overload (just as humans have done it all along). Consume no grains and no processed seed oils while eating whole foods like nuts, meats, and vegetables and you do not have to count omega-6 fat grams or any other measure, as it simply takes care of itself.

After following this advice for a period of, say, 60 days, if you are not confident that you are maintaining a healthy balance of omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids, you can measure your own omega-6:omega-3 index with a finger-stick blood test that you can do yourself at home, such as the one by OmegaQuant (omegaquant .com/omega-3-index/). Remember an ideal omega-6:omega-3 index is 2:1 or less.

The post How much omega-6 fatty acids do you really need? appeared first on Dr. William Davis.

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