My dietician recommended taking an Omega 3 & 6 supplement. I know that they are really good for you, and that it's hard to get enough of them in your diet. I have a vague recollection of hearing that most people have too much Omega 6 in their diet, but not enough Omega 3. So I got a fish oil capsule for Omega 3. The margarine I use has added Omega 3 and 6.

My questions are:
1) What is the difference between Omega 3 and 6?
2) Is Omega 6 (in excess) bad for you? How/why?

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Dear Megan.

Have a look on wikipedia omega 3 and omega 6 and essential fatty acids. Quite a mouthful but as usual very detailed with molecular diagrammes to explain the different molecules and a lot of discussion of health effects. Superficial reading of all of this is that the omega 6 may interfere with the good guy omega 3. Our veggy oils may have have too high a ratio of 6 to the 3. Give this a read and I will too and we can discuss it. Probably an important issue.

I think your dietician is a little insane, if I understand this correctly. I'm not necessarily an expert, but I've been researching this kind of thing and writing about it on my website and elsewhere for a while.

Having lots of omega 3's is great, and we do also need omega 6's--they are both essential fatty acids, meaning our bodies cannot produce them. ideally, we'd consume equal parts omega 3/ omega 6. unfortunately, most americans consume something on the order of 20 omega 6 to 1 omega 3, mainly because of the way we process food and use too much corn and soy. omega 6's are bad because they can lead to inflammation, heart problems, and general poor health. Some omega 6's are better than others, but in general taking an omega 6 supplement is stupid. The bottom line is that our bodies were designed by evolution with the assumption that we would consume a certain amount of omega 3 and omega 6, but recent changes in the way we do food have thrown our systems off.

What should we do instead? We need to stop eating garbage vegetable oils (soy, canola, corn, etc) and try to stop eating factory farmed food. Grass fed cows, free range chickens, free range eggs, etc all have great omega 3 to omega 6 ratios, whereas factory farmed food is worse because the animals eat low quality corn and soy with tons of omega 6's. Unfortunately, some of this can be expensive. So what I'd recommend is start cooking with butter, cold pressed extra virgin olive oil, coconut oil, and palm oil instead of other vegetable oils. After that, you should definitely get an omega 3 supplement. I think cod liver oil is the best, because some fish oil capsules are low quality and don't have enough of the good omega 3's. You want to shoot for 2 grams of EPA and DHA (which are better than ALA) omega 3 a day.

Hope that was helpful
Hi Sam

Thanks for the response - very helpful!

Before I read your post, I went out and bought some "Omega 3 and 6 enriched" eggs. It turns out they were enriched by feeding the chickens canola in some or other form! I'll stick to regular free-range from now on.

I do try to eat venison when possible (mostly in the form of kudu or springbok biltong or ground meat). I found this blog about an American encountering kudu biltong. Free range chicken is not available in my town, sadly. I do try to eat tuna 2 or 3 times a week. I use very little oil when cooking, and if I do it's a drizzle of olive oil or non-stick cooking spray.
Dear Meggan

The omega 3 and omega 6 eggs are produced in Canada by feeding them flax seed not canola, I would expect the same in South Africa.




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