Omega 6 fats acids are a family of polyunsaturated fatty acids found predominantly in vegetable oils including soybean oil, corn oil, cottonseed oil, sesame oil, grapeseed oil, safflower oil, sunflower oil and canola oil. These fats are also found in high amounts in seeds and some nuts, as well as grain-fed meats, farmed fish and conventional eggs.
While omega-6’s are essential fatty acids – meaning we must obtain them from our diet – most of us are getting far too much of this kind of fat.
And that’s a really bad thing when it comes to your health.
Omega 6 Fats: The Fat That Doesn’t Fit In Our Genes
You see, our genes haven’t changed much since the days of our Paleo ancestors (In fact, 99.9% of our genetic profile is still Paleolithic!). But our diets – including the amount and ratio of polyunsaturated fats – have.
Over millions of years, we evolved eating a diet rich in wild seafood, where omega-3 fats were the main source of fat in the diet. Even the small animals on the Paleo “plate” were higher in omega-3s than those we eat today.
And while our Paleo ancestors enjoyed an abundance of plant foods (greens, roots, tubers, berries, fruits and nuts) the predominant source of omega-6 in the modern diet (seed oils) – were not on the menu.
In fact, it wasn’t until about 150 years ago with the Industrial Revolution (the same movement that brought us milled grains and refined sugar) that seed oils came to market.
Today most of the fats in the diet are polyunsaturated vegetable oils including soy, corn, safflower and canola. In fact, it is estimated that as much as 80% of the fats consumed in the United States are linoleic, with as much as 20% of our total calories come from soybean oil alone!
Research shows that Modern Western diets typically have ratios of omega-6 to omega-3 in excess of 10 to 1, some as high as 30 to 1. But the optimal ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 is estimated to be between 1:1 and 2.3:1.
What’s more, polyunsaturated fats are inherently unstable.
Even in their unrefined, native form (raw seeds, for example) the omega-6 fats readily deteriorate and generate free radicals. But it is very difficult to consume large quantities of these fats when they are still contained in their natural form. It is the processing, extracting and concentrating of these oils that has made them so dangerous.
When we cook with these unstable fats, they become denatured and generate even more free radicals.
Omega 6 Fats: Fueling Oxidation and Inflammation
And that’s a really bad thing for your health because free radicals:
- Attack cells and damage DNA
- Cause premature aging and wrinkles
- Wreak havoc on tissues and organs creating a cellular cascade that promotes cancer
- Ravage lipoproteins and blood vessels encouraging the buildup of unstable plaque in the arteries that leads to heart attack and stroke
But the damage doesn’t end there. In fact, free radicals have been found to be associated with everything from autoimmune diseases to Parkinson’s disease, Lou Gehrig’s disease, Alzheimer’s, cataracts and a host of other conditions.
But omega-6’s don’t just contribute to oxidation. They promote inflammation as well.
Linolenic acid (LA) competes with alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) for enzymes in the body. These enzymes convert shorter chain fats into longer ones our body needs including arachadonic acid (AA) and EPA, respectively.
When there is an excess of omega-6 in the diet, more arachadonic acid (AA) than EPA is formed. And that’s a bad thing because AA acid promotes inflammation, blood vessel constriction and blood clotting.
While our bodies have amazing capabilities to adapt and repair, asking them to leapfrog hundreds of centuries in just 100 years is unreasonable. And when we feed our ancestral genes “modernized” foods there are dire consequences.
Less Omega 6 Fats (and MORE Omega 3s) for a Longer, Healthier Life
Getting too much omega-6 in your diet increases the risk for nearly every chronic disease – from cancer… to macular degeneration…to diabetes and heart disease.
To achieve your best health, optimize your ratios by:
- Avoid vegetable oils and seed oils, including corn, soybean, safflower, peanut, sunflower, grapeseed and cottonseed
- Avoid commercial salad dressings, including “healthy” mayonnaise (try our Paleo Mayonnaise here)
- Avoid foods fried in omega 6 rich oils – most restaurants fry in vegetable oil
- Avoid crackers, chips and other “snack foods” – always read labels
- Increase your consumption of foods rich in omega-3s – including wild salmon, sardines, Atlantic mackerel, green-lipped mussels, wild shrimp and Pacific halibut
- Take a high-quality fish oil supplement (like Carlson’s)
- Purchase pasture-raised eggs. Conventionally raised eggs have 19 times more omega-6 than omega-3
- Eat grass-fed beef – “conventional” grain- fed beef has 14 times more omega 6 fatty acids than its naturally-grazing counterpart