The Omega-6 Imbalance Found in Vegetable Oils

21 May 2018

If you have been following my posts or read my books concerning nutritional health for any length of time, you know that it is critical to balance omega-3 fat with omega-6 fat intake. Omega-3 fats are the oils that we must consume in order to preserve neurologic function and reduce inflammatory processes in our bodies. Omega-6 fats are also essential fats (the ones we need to stay healthy but can’t make in our bodies so we must eat them) that stimulate inflammation through several immunologic pathways.

It is imperative that we consume both of these oils daily to maintain our dietary fitness; but, the critical aspect of this is that they must be ingested in the proper ratio.  Balance between omega-3 and omega-6 fat in our diet is necessary, and the problem of omega imbalance began to develop in the Western diet in the 1950’s because of two dietary changes that occurred in the U.S. The first of these was the concerted effort to stop eating farm fats (these were high in omega-3 fats and low in omega-6 fats) and the introduction of Trans fats (very high in omega-6 fats) in the form of Crisco and other brand name farm fat replacements.

When Trans fats began to get a bad name because of their link to heart disease and cancer, people began to look to for alternative fats. This led to a transformation to vegetable oils, and now olive oil. Fast food restaurants, processed foods and salad dressings and the like have been gradually switching over to these oils.

The problem with these oils are that they are very high to omega-6 fat; some have no measurable omega-3 fats.  The higher the omega-3 content, the more rapid the oil deteriorates on the shelf and becomes rancid. And, most people are unaware of the omega-6 content of vegetable oils. Because of this, I have prepared a table listed below that will help you see the problem of trying to balance omega-3 and omega-6 intake.

Omega-6 Content

Canola Oil: 2800 mg per Tablespoon
Corn Oil: 7452 mg per Tablespoon
Cottonseed Oil:  7000 mg per Tablespoon
Olive Oil:  1100 mg per Tablespoon
Peanut Oil:  4950 mg per Tablespoon
Safflower Oil:  10,447 mg per Tablespoon
Soybean Oil:  7059 mg per Tablespoon
Sunflower Oil:  9198 mg per Tablespoon

As you can see, these oils contain large quantities of omega-6 fat. The correct ratio of omega-3 to omega-6 fat in our diet should be about two parts of omega-3 to one part of omega-6 fat. The Western diet is presently one part omega-3 to eighteen parts omega-6 at best as it is probably much worse than that. Besides the fact that our diet is severely deficient in omega-3’s, we consume massive quantities of omega-6 fat from these oils. If you consume just one tablespoon of soybean oil, you would need about fourteen capsules (500 mg omega-3 per capsule) of fish oil to rebalance your omega status.

As I pointed out in my articles on nuts and omega check, the vast majority of us are out of balance because of nuts and vegetable oils. At least we can now measure our omega levels. But, the most important thing is for us to make the real changes once we know how out of balance our omega’s are. For example, if you have a small order of French Fries, you are getting 2.5 grams of omega-6 vegetable oil. You would need to take five grams of fish oil to counterbalance that “small” order. And, as you and I know, most of us bump it up to a “large” size which is five grams of omega-6. And, that doesn’t count for the vegetable oil found in the accompanying hamburger, the bun, the mayonnaise or any other omega-6 intake for the rest of the day. A typical Western diet could easily reach 10-20 grams of omega-6 per day. That takes a lot of fish, flax or krill oil to rebalance your omega’s.

The importance of balancing omega’s can’t be understated. As I pointed out in my first book, 42 Days to a New Life, every organ system in the body is damaged with excess omega-6 fat and deficiency of omega-3 fat in our diet. Best of luck with improving your nutritional health.

Dr. M. Frank Lyons