0

votes

How much Omega 6 is too much?

Commented on April 06, 2016
Created April 02, 2016 at 5:40 PM

I've been thinking about this question a lot lately. It came from looking at a 3.5 ounce empty bag of Cheetos I found on the ground after a ball game. At 60% fat content, this was about 60 grams of fat. If the frying fat was soy, this is about 30 grams of Omega 6, or 270 calories.

How much is too much? According to WHO recommendations I found googling around, the recommended diet should contain 5-8% omega 6, so for a 2000 calorie diet, 100-160 calories of O6. According to 2002 US Food & Nutrition guidelines, 17 grams of O6 per day for an adult, or 144 calories. So by a couple of measures the sack of Cheetos consumed during a ball game adequately supplies a person's daily need for O6.

Now move to the American dietary macros in 2010 using USDA's availability statistics (http://www.cnpp.usda.gov/USFoodSupply-1909-2010). By my calculation ths gives the average American diet as 12% protein/45% carbs/43% fat. On a 2000 calorie per day diet, this is 860 calories per day of fat, and if that fat is soy at 50% O6, 430 calories of O6.

Once again, how much is too much? This is 3x more than WHO recommends. At what point does the O6 have some detrimental effect? And what is that detrimental effect? I'm not talking about obesity or diabetes. These are certainly a concern if there is overeating, but the people eating the bags of Cheetos were not obese. I've seen some reference to carcinogenic effects, but no big studies implicating O6 as a primary cause. 

  • Size75 avatar

    asked by

    (10601)
  • Views
    1.2K
  • Last Activity
    593D AGO
Frontpage book

Get FREE instant access to our Paleo For Beginners Guide & 15 FREE Recipes!

6 Answers

1
D3dafb602c2ef9c6c7a8733696326482

(110)

on April 03, 2016
at 07:45 AM

Worth noting about the US is that it has relatively low omega-6 to omega-3 ratio compared to other countries, and the ratio may actually be lower than a hundred years ago. The reason is the very high consumption of soybean oil. In Israel the n6:n3 is vastly higher because they use other oils like sunflower oil.

I think the major issue is not this ratio, but oxidative stress, damaged fats and artificial trans fats. And a reason why fruits, vegetables, legumes etc are beneficial is that they can protect against this oxidative stress.

Some vegans can eat 50 grams of linolic acid per day from things like soy/tofu, sesame seeds, sunflower seeds etc. Their health may be surprisingly good in some ways, re CVD for example, despite sometimes a very high n6 to n3 ratio and an absence of long chain omega-3 fatty acids. I´ve seen studies suggesting the breast milk of such vegans were extremly low in n3 DHA (EPA is usually low in human milk no matter diet), but this was compensated for by adequate/higher levels of arachidonic acid. I have not seen any evidence that vegans suffer from more inflammatory related diseases than other groups, quite the contrary. They likely suffer from suboptimal levels of DHA however, reflected for example in poor eyesight.

I think it´s probably most important to get the vegetable oils out of the diet and in particular to avoid all foods fried in them. Only use clarified butter or coconut (maybe mixed with olive oil) for frying. Then eat some whole foods like nuts for unsaturated fats. We need some for optimal health, especially omega-6. Although most people today probably have stores to last a long time due to eating things like Cheetos.

I believe it makes sense to eat some fats from tropical foods, because the extreme heat there (similar as in the human body) will demand either a high level of saturated fats for protection, or very high levels of other antioxidants. There´s a pufa rich nut from the tropics which has something like 500 IU vitamin E/100 gram, if I remember correctly.

Same for animal foods, getting them from animals with same body temperatures as our own will ensure the needed antioxidants and structure of the fat. Seal and whale are mammals (warm blooded). It may be best to avoid concentrated oil supplements from arctic fish (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23946657). Fish from the relatively warm mediterranean does not have the same composition as fish from arctic regions.

D3dafb602c2ef9c6c7a8733696326482

(110)

on April 06, 2016
at 10:17 AM

The LA:ALA ratio in "Duck, wild, meat and skin, raw" on nutritiondata.self.com, is 10.9. (http://nutritiondata.self.com/facts/poultry-products/783/2). Pufa content about 14%.

But this does not measure longer chain fatty acids like arachidonic acid, EPA, DPA and DHA, which is typically high in such animals, but low in ruminants due to different digestive systems.

Maybe you have another analysis, then please post it. Otherwise I´ll stick to this. It is important to measure the whole animal not just muscle meat. Maybe if you measure exclusively the meat it´s lower n6:n3, but there´s the tendency that duck or swine prefer to store a certain type of fats, like LA over ALA. It´s not all about what they eat.

56c28e3654d4dd8a8abdb2c1f525202e

(1822)

on April 04, 2016
at 02:17 PM

a word of caution on using official data. If you catch a wild duck, or let them pasture in wet environments, their diet will be mostly greens and  their fat rich in O3. Sure, farmed ducks eat a lot of grains, but I do not eat those and no one else should either. Same for lard, pastured lard will not have a ratio of 10.

At any rate both the ratio and the total amount of PUFA matter. And soybeans have a total PUFA much higher than lard.

Medium avatar

(10601)

on April 04, 2016
at 01:13 PM

Ah Bearn...my boss in Bordeaux was from Bearn and spoke 4 or 5 languages, the best of which were Spanish and French. We had to do some work in Italy once, and he got on the phone to set it up. Not knowing any Italian he created an unintelligible mixture of French and Spanish...

He had a story about a dinner on a ski trip. The best part for him is that it went on for 4-5 hours, in many courses. For him this was paradise. We forget to linger over our meals and savor them.

D3dafb602c2ef9c6c7a8733696326482

(110)

on April 04, 2016
at 11:14 AM

thhq,

I´ve also seen this scenario play out. Very sad.

Sometimes I think it´s just better to disconnect oneself from the advice of health authorities (and the internet) and just buy an old French cookbook or something, and just eat that food.

Lots of egg yolks, butter and cream! Very small amounts of raw foods, even fruits are typically cooked/baked. I suspect on such a diet not so much food intolerances would be noticed as food intolerances commonly relates to raw foods.

Bearnaise sauce:
"mix some butter and chopped parsley together; add gradually a little french vinegar. Beat the yolks of six eggs together, and mix the butter, etc., adding salt and pepper to taste."

Vanilla ice-cream
"Boil a quart of milk… Place the yolks of seven eggs in a saucepan, add nine ounces of powdered sugar, and stir well together … now mix with the milk."

http://vintagecookbooks.healthyeatingandlifestyle.org/books/1910easyfrench.html

http://vintagecookbooks.healthyeatingandlifestyle.org/1900-19.html

D3dafb602c2ef9c6c7a8733696326482

(110)

on April 04, 2016
at 08:26 AM

glib,

Lard has a higher n6 to n3 ratio than soybean oil (10:0 vs 7.5:1) so replacing lard with soybean oil will lower then ratio.

It seems you are right, however, and we also eat much less butter. From what I checked http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3076650/

(In the United States)

"The ratio of LA to ALA increased from 6.4 in 1909 to 10.0 in 1999." and "the ratio of n-6 to n-3" increased from 5.4 in 1909 to 9.6 in 1999."

Since 1999 we have added a lot of canola oil to the diet with 2:1 n6:n3 ratio and likely also eat more fish/oil supplements due to the extreme focus on omega-3 fatty acids.

It is also worth mentioning that we ingest much less arachidonic acid (AA), as we don´t eat so much organ meats anymore. Organ meat can supply in some cases 10-20x more AA than muscle meats. According to some "experts" in inflammation, the inflammatory effect of arachidonic acid can be 50 or 100 times stronger than linolic acid. So 150 grams of chicken heart would equal eating 50-100 grams of linolic acid. I strongly disagree with this, just as I disagree with the whole obsession with the n6 to n3 ratio.

The problem is just that we eat too much polyunsaturated fats from plant oils, and they happen to be high in omega-6, not omega-3. If there were anything to the theory one would expect a huge difference in various diseases in countries using sunflower oil versus soybean oil, but I have not seen any such evidence.

The smoking point indicator is misleading because it does not fully take into account the oxidation of fats. It´s just one point to consider (I will however use some avocado oil from now on). These vegetable oils oxidize if you put them into the sun too for example, this is well known, if nitrogen is added to the bottle they will keep longer. But they will oxidize even in the refridgerator. A bottle of extra virgin olive oil will keep longer because it has more antioxidants. The refined oils have less antioxidants and higher smoking points.

And this is also about what happens in the human body afterwards, when you ingest these refined oils lacking antioxidants (with their high smoking points). How would the body cope with all the polyunsaturated fats? If you read the study I cited comparing the effect of supplementing seal oil versus fish oil to hamsters, maybe you get my point. Sure the fish oil may be reasonably fresh and fine before ingestion, but it may not go so well inside of the body, and this is ultimately what matters. 

Duck fat has 12:1 n6:n3 according to nutritiondata. Maybe feed plays a role, but I think there are some errors in our ideas about n6:n3 ratio in pre-historic times, even in hunter gatherers. The point is that alpha-linolenic acid (n3, ALA) is found mainly in grass and leaves, and creatures eating those will usually have very low n6:n3 ratio. But there are so many other species that eat other plant foods (like seeds) with sky high n6:n3 ratio. And those were eaten too. Additionally these latter foods tends to have much higher % of polyunsaturated fats compared to ruminants due to the different digestive systems. This means that even if you eat 200 grams of grass fed beef plus 100 grams of wild boar meat (19:1 LA:ALA) according to nutritiondata, your overall n6:n3 balance may well end up over 10:1.

A question is if we really ate much fish in pre-historic times. I don´t think we did.

Medium avatar

(10601)

on April 03, 2016
at 11:10 PM

My grandparents ate a lot of dairy. All four were severely overweight or obese. On my mother's side, they ate dairy all their lives and lived to their mid 80's. On my father's side, they ate dairy up until they were in their 60's, when they switched to "healthy" vegetable oil substitutes like margarine and fake cream for their coffee, cereal and berries. Essentially replacing dairy with PUFA-based trans fats. That grandmother died of cancer in her early 70's, and the grandfather in his late 70's of stroke complications. I've avoided dairy substitutes (especially those trans fat-laden fake creams, like Rich's and Cool Whip) for 40 years as a result of that. 

I ate at a New York glatt kosher steakhouse once. Not being Jewish, I was surprised to be offered margarine when I asked for butter, not knowing that the combination of meat and milk products was forbidden. The kosher restrictions probably explain the high use of vegetable oils in Israel.

56c28e3654d4dd8a8abdb2c1f525202e

(1822)

on April 03, 2016
at 10:05 PM

concur on emphasis on oxidative stress, and avoidance of fried foods,but some nitpicking:

 

1) 100 years ago in the USA the fats of choice were lard and butter. It was about then that vegetable oils started to appear on the market. So the statement that americans had a higher O6/O3 back then is incorrect.

2) ghee and coconut oil are nothing special when it comes to frying. A google of "smoking point of oils" reveals two clear winners: avocado oil and high oleic safflower. I use the former, and I am amazed at the stability of it. You fry something, the oil tastes exactly the same as raw oil. It is an oil that can be purified more easily than the other oils, since it is the impurities that create toxic compounds. Oleic acid by itself has a smoke point beyond 600F. I want to mention also high oleic sunflower. Both HO sunflower and safflower have a fat profile very similar to olive, and sunflower is by far the highest vitamin E source amongst common foods. I eat sunflower shoots a few times a week, in part due to their nutrition.

3) the fat of choice, from similar animals, has historically been lard. Abundant (I bought a steer - 700lb carcass - and a pig -160lb carcass-  with other families two years ago, and the pig rendered fat was more than twice the steer rendered fat), healthy, and comes with high collagen meat. If you want to be fancy, duck and goose fat is next best. No need to conjure up arctic expeditions.

1
56c28e3654d4dd8a8abdb2c1f525202e

(1822)

on April 02, 2016
at 06:18 PM

very difficult to say as there are synergic effects. But I note that some healthy fats (avocado, olive, chicken, lard) have relatively large amounts of O6, even in the case of pastured meat. I am satisfied that up to 6-7/1 O6/O3 there are no particularly ill effects from diet, and try to keep the overall amount of poly. fats low. No seed oils, fish about 3 times a week (not more, it is not all that nutritious), use all healthy fats otherwise.

0
Medium avatar

(10601)

on April 03, 2016
at 03:27 PM

One final comparison. I don't see striking evidence of O6 on mortality comparing US vs ISR vs IT. But now for the elephant in the room, which I've avoided till now. Obesity.

https://apps.who.int/infobase/Indicators.aspx

This one I blame on excessive O6 and refined carbs together. For over 60 men, the US is at about 35% obesity rate while IT and ISR are in the 15-20% range. Though % coronary heart disease mortality is similar for all countries, old age obesity results in earlier onset.

0
Medium avatar

(10601)

on April 02, 2016
at 11:10 PM

OK! This is probably the best I can do. A population study on Israel, which has the highest PUFA consumption rate in the world. And the highest CVD rate among the Med countries. The Israeli Paradox.

http://www.atherosclerosis-journal.com/article/S0021-9150(04)00416-2/abstract

There's a BIG caveat though. Longevity of Israeli men is almost 80, among the highest in the world. And while the CVD rate is high, CVD event survival is extraordinary. 

 

Medium avatar

(10601)

on April 03, 2016
at 03:40 AM

And going through mortality data, in both USA and Israel coronary heart disease is the leading cause of death, but 4% lower in Israel. Israeli diabetes death rates are higher, which might say something about higher O6, or maybe higher rates of obesity.

But nothing is as striking as the difference in longevity. 3.7 years longer in Israel. If eating more PUFA is hurting something it isn't that.

http://www.worldlifeexpectancy.com/world-health-review/united-states-vs-israel

Italy vs Israel might be more instructive. Both wealthy Med countries, similar high longevity, but PUFA is much lower in Italy. Again coronary heart disease mortality is lower in Israel, by 2%. And again Israeli diabetes death rates are higher.

http://www.worldlifeexpectancy.com/world-health-review/italy-vs-israel

As far as cancer Italy vs Israel are similar on both stomach and colorectal, and these are relatively minor in overall mortality. Italian hypertension mortality about 2x higher. I don't know how to sort out autoimmune diseases as mortality causes.

56c28e3654d4dd8a8abdb2c1f525202e

(1822)

on April 03, 2016
at 01:33 AM

this can be interpreted as PUFA being associated with heart attacks. But it is only part of the story. what about cancer and autoimmune diseases?

0
56c28e3654d4dd8a8abdb2c1f525202e

(1822)

on April 02, 2016
at 09:26 PM

disagree with your older comment. If they do not give the fat breakdown we can not conclude anything. Potentially, the paper could be interpreted as: carbs are less inflammatory than O6. I can go along with that. The paper from the most recent comment could be interpreted as: high fat helps, so long as the O6 fraction is less than certain thresholds.

Medium avatar

(10601)

on April 03, 2016
at 02:06 AM

I'm trying to do better...doesn't look like rabbits do well on ghee, but what foes that mean...what does hydrogenated fat mean...more questions than answers...

56c28e3654d4dd8a8abdb2c1f525202e

(1822)

on April 03, 2016
at 01:36 AM

this one is tough, but rabbits are not particularly good at handling fats. should I trust a rabbit study?

Medium avatar

(10601)

on April 02, 2016
at 09:37 PM

Agreed, these weight loss studies are all over the place, and having the macros spelled out helps a lot. The second study shows positive to meat fat, I think. But I'm interested in what happens when you spike a diet with PUFA. Cordain focuses on O6/O3 ratio being detrimental, but I think it's more a matter of quantity. And when you eat a bag of Cheetos you get PUFA in quantity. What does a big shot of PUFA do to someone? Is it harmless calories metabolized, or does it have a cumulating negative effect (outside of weight gain)?

I'm finding a few studies that go the other way - spiking diets with various fats - but nothing on humans yet. Here's a rabbit example. I'm having trouble deciphering it.    

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3557004/

0
Medium avatar

(10601)

on April 02, 2016
at 07:13 PM

We can tinker with the ratios by eating fish and flaxseed oils. The WHO guidelines suggest 1-2% O3, which puts them at 5:1, and those US guidelines are similar. But that presumes a whole lot less fat than Americans eat, and you'd need a lot of salmon to get to 5:1. So that's why it's just the O6 I'm interested in. I'll start digging for some CRP data on inflammation.

Medium avatar

(10601)

on April 02, 2016
at 09:11 PM

And here a 12 week obese weight loss study with much better results for the high fat weight loss diet. Both diets reduced CRP, with the high fat diet reduction substantially higher. The authors report several studies that have been done on this, with the outcomes highly variable between fhigh and low fat. This study includes the fat breakdowns, and the high fat group was eating 50% more PUFA than the low fat group. The high fat group was also eating more protein. Though not stated this protein was probably from meat, since the increase in saturated fat consumption is much higher than PUFA, so this is not a perfect apples-to-apples comparison. Net/net this study says to me that dietary fat level is unimportant, and go ahead and eat the extra fat if you need the calories....though the preference would be to get the added fat from meat rather than Cheetos.

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3845365/

I still need information on the effect on people who are not losing weight. But they're not studied as much as the obese.

Medium avatar

(10601)

on April 02, 2016
at 07:56 PM

And here's a first piece.

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17536128

Isocaloric weight loss diet (1350 kcal/day) by obese women for 4 weeks, comparing 24% fat (HC) vs 58% fat (LC) diets. The CRP of LC dieters increased by 25% while the CRP of HC dieters fell by 43%.

while I was looking for weight maintenance conditions, this give some indication that shifting to a higher % fat diet increases inflammation. If O6 represents 33% of the fat content, this is an increase of 8% to 19% dietary O6. The unanswered question is whether the increase in inflammation was due just to the O6, or is due to the increase in all fats.

This study was discussed at length at Carbsane. The CRP levels at the study's start were borderline unhealthy for both groups (5-6 range). The changes over 4 weeks were BIG: up to 7.1 in the LC group (way more unhealthy), and down to 2.7 in the HC group. Unfortunately the O6:O3 was not given. But it's still a word to the wise...eating an extra sack of Cheetos a day is not going to reduce inflammation... 

http://1.bp.blogspot.com/_18sX-aRGjo0/S4a5n77Bc-I/AAAAAAAAAA4/vZiYlRy-_3o/s1600-h/ScreenHunter_01+Feb.+25+12.37.gif

Answer Question


Get FREE instant access to our
Paleo For Beginners Guide & 15 FREE Recipes!