Are you taking a fish oil or flaxseed supplement, which also contains high amounts of omega-6 fatty acids (>600-700 mg)???!!

STOP!

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Lately I’ve noticed that more and more companies are highlighting the importance of the omega-6 fatty acids (in the form of linoleic acid) in their fish oil and/or flaxseed oil supplements. To me, this is a major problem. I’ve been trying to explain this to friends and family for a while now, but a recent article in Today’s Dietitian Magazine confirmed that I am correct in telling people to steer clear of these types of supplements.

According to the article (page 48), humans evolved on a diet with an omega-6 to omega-3 ratio of 1:1, but now it is closer to 16:1. The reason why we are consuming so much more omega-6 is that it is found in so many of America’s favorite foods:

Sources of Omega-6

Vegetable oils

Poultry

Nuts

Seeds

Just that first source alone; vegetable oil, is enough proof that Americans are getting plenty of omega-6 fatty acids. Check out the foods in your cabinet right now and you will see that most of them contain at least one type of vegetable oil. And then we have sources of omega-3 fatty acids;

Sources of Omega-3

Walnuts (vegan source)

Flaxseed (vegan source)

Algae (vegan source)

Soy (vegan source)

Fish

Fish oil supplements

Grassfed beef

Milk from grassfed cow

Fortified eggs

These foods are not in every person’s diet, that’s for sure. And something you may not know is that most of the foods listed above also contains omega-6 fatty acids, and in some cases they contain more omega-6 than omega-3 (flaxseed, walnuts, soy)!

If you are not a vegetarian or vegan you are less likely to have problems getting enough omega-3 (but trust me, I know plenty of animal eaters who still do not get enough). Many vegans and vegetarians (but certainly not all!) have trouble getting enough omega-3 and reducing their ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids. This is especially true when they buy flaxseed or other omega-3 supplements, which also contain high amounts of omega-6 (>600-700mg). Companies like to capitalize on the fact that omega-6 is essential and we can only get it via food and/or supplements. But now you know, you do not need it in your supplements! That is, unless you don’t eat any oils, poultry, or snack foods….

Source: iStockPhoto

But I highly doubt that is the case.

Did you know that an abundance of omega-6 in one’s diet (especially a vegan or vegetarian) can decrease the already low conversion of ALA to DHA and EPA? So I’m still pondering the idea of omega-6 being added to omega-3 supplements, especially ones meant for vegans. Now that you know it’s a waste of money, do yourself a favor and do not buy these. Look for omega-3 supplements that are strictly omega-3, unless of course you aren’t getting enough oils and other sources of fat in your diet, which may warrant these types of supplements (for example, if you’re on a very low calorie or low fat diet).

Bottom Line

Omega-6 is a natural fat found in many of these products, but some companies provide more of these fats than others. Buy fish oil supplements, or flaxseed supplements, that do not contain more than ~600-700 mg omega-6, which is the lowest I found, and look for at least 1000 mg total EPA/DHA, per serving (or just look for the lowest ratio of the two fats possible). And of course, continue to focus on omega-3 when you eat foods throughout the day.

Question: Have you ever purchased a flaxseed oil or fish oil supplement, which contained high amounts of omega-6? What are your thoughts on this issue??