Q Is it true that Americans eat excessive omega-6 fatty acids in proportion to omega-3s? Is it unhealthy?


A Anson Lai, Dietetic Intern, Tufts Medical Center, explains: “The two major types of polyunsaturated fatty acids in your food are the omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. The ratio of omega-6s to omega-3s in the American diet is relatively high, ranging from 10:1 to 20:1 or higher. Independently, dietary patterns high in omega-6 fatty acids, have consistently been associated with lower risk of cardiovascular disease. Similarly, dietary patterns high in fish, the major source of omega-3 fatty acids, have also been associated with lower risk of cardiovascular disease.

“Some studies suggest that the imbalance between omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids could have negative health consequences, like increased chronic inflammation. However, these studies are in the minority when entire dietary patterns are factored into the analyses.

“Although some researchers have suggested that a ratio of omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids ranging from 1:1 to 4:1 could be better for optimal health, an ideal ratio—if one exists—has not been established. Important to note, both types of polyunsaturated fatty acids are part of a healthy, balanced diet, especially when they replace saturated fat. Good sources of omega-3 include flaxseed, soybean oil, canola oil and cold-water fatty fish such as salmon, mackerel, tuna, herring and sardines. Sources of omega-6 include sunflower, safflower, soybean, sesame and corn oils.”


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