How Can You Track Omega-6 and Omega-3 Fatty Acid Consumption?

It’s estimated that the Old Stone Age diet provided much more omega-3 fatty acids and much less omega-6s, compared to modern Western diets.  This may have important implications for development of certain chronic diseases like cancer and heart disease.

This'll improve your omega-6/omega-3 ratio!

I haven’t studied this issue in great detail but hope to do so at some point.  Evelyn Tribole has strong opinions on it; I may get one of her books.

I saw an online video of William E.M.Lands, Ph.D., discussing the omega-6/omega-3 ratio.  He mentioned free software available from the National Insitutes of Health that would help you monitor and adjust your ratio.

You can see the video here.  Dr. Lands’ talk starts around minute 12 and lasts about 45 minutes.  He says it’s just as important (if not more so) to reduce your omega-6 consumption as to increase your omega-3.  And don’t overeat.

Steve Parker, M.D.

8 responses to “How Can You Track Omega-6 and Omega-3 Fatty Acid Consumption?

  1. I was just reading a paper on residual depression in the elderly and omega3/6 fatty acid ratio in plasma and cells – the issue is complex, to say the least. Super high levels of omega 6 may down-regulate the inflammatory pathways – super high and super low omega 6 correlated with more residual depression. Very interesting.

  2. Thanks for commenting, Emily. I have a few articles from Dr. Lands in my “to be read” stack. Industrial seed oils, rich in omega-6s, are vilified in some neighborhoods of the blogosphere. Even heard Dr. Caldwell Esselstyne on the radio a couple hours ago bad-mouth them.

  3. There’s also a FitDay-type site called Paleo Track that gives omega-3 + omega-6 values and calculates the ratio for you

  4. Sarah, that’s good to know. Thanks!

  5. I wrote an open source nutrition program (available free from ) that allows fairly precise tracking of what Dr. Lands is talking about. Because the cell phospholipids saturate with Omega-6 above 2% of calories, a simple dietary ratio of Omega-6 to Omega-3 tells you nothing. He developed an empirical equation from population studies that relates dietary fatty acid intake to the all-important percentages of highly-unsaturated fatty acids in the tissue phospholipids, all -important because these are the random precursors to the thromboxane, cox-2, and other eicosanoids that so much pharmacology is combating. But it is a bitter pill for many to give up their oils and substitute butter, dump the poultry and pork for seafood and beef, and really get the numbers down to where they do some good: where tissue phospholipids have more Omega-3 than Omega-6. There is a large food-reward value to linoleic acid, even as the physical problems proliferate: the belly fat, the aging, the insulin resistance, the cancer progression, the cardiovascular disease, etc.

  6. Jim, thanks for the info. I didn’t know linoleic acid was particularly tasty. (Forgive me if I’m oversimplifying the food-reward hypothesis. Anyone interested in it should see Stephan Guyenet’s blog for details.)

    • Yes, and besides the reward factor, think about how much linoleic acid is already sitting in the patient’s visceral fat.

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