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omega 3 badA Scandinavian 180D reader recently wrote in with a series of questions. I thought I would take the time to publicly answer those questions so that it would satisfy everyone’s curiosities as to my responses. Please excuse the errors. English isn’t her first language…

Hi! I wich you would write something more about whole grain and legumes, regarding linoleic acid. Are really such big amounts of linoleic acid in these? I know the percentage is high, but the total amount? And compared to legumes (that I cant eat anyway since they seams to get stuck in my stomach like a stone)?

The total quantity of linoleic acid in grains, and legumes especially, is fairly small, usually far below 5% of total calories as was reported on the omega 6 chart I posted many years ago HERE. And you’re right that total quantity matters more than anything else. Generally-speaking, however, whole grains offer relatively few health advantages over refined grains, especially in the context of an otherwise fairly nutritious diet. These points were made well in Anthony Colpo’s Whole Grains, Empty Promises, which I narrated myself. Plus, people typically enjoy refined grains and often digest them much better–and these contain no PUFA at all. While the total content may be fairly low in whole grains, this is a pretty easy place to lower your total PUFA intake. It requires no willpower.

I also wonder if you think of PUFAs in general as something bad, if one should limit omega 3 intake also, in the way Ray Peat or Dany Roddy thinks. I live in an area where people ate mackerel and herring quite often (Swedish west coast) and it is colder than in Africa of course. Maybe larger intake of these fishes suits here. We ate herring, mackerel and trouts as long as people lived here. The book traditional nutrition about Price and blue zones, made me notice that fatty fishes where eaten where they was easy to catch, and, the colder climate, the more of those fishes are living in the sea. It’s also colder for the people. For now, I eat 1-2 portions per week, skipping all fish oils or cod liver oils since some months.

Theoretically-speaking, I do think all PUFA can generally be regarded as not ideal by virtue of the fact that they are highly unstable and lead to faster aging via the production of lipid peroxides. Lipid peroxides play a direct role in many degenerative ailments and play a central role in aging in general. You can be perfectly healthy, well-fed, and have wonderful teeth eating lots of nutritious, cold-water fish as a dietary staple, but that still doesn’t make it ideal. Plus, who knows now that our oceans have been polluted and fish contain much higher levels of known carcinogenic compounds. I’m not saying that fish was healthy then and isn’t now, but it’s certainly possible, and we shouldn’t be blinded to such a possibility.

However, before we put a nail in the coffin of PUFA, including omega 3, context matters tremendously. The cells, tissues, organs, and breast milk of modern humans have outrageously large quantities of omega 6 polyunsaturated fat. Omega 3 polyunsaturated fat, such as that found in cold water fish, is known to counteract many of the negatives of excess omega 6 tissue accumulation. While it may seem like fighting fire with fire, if a person is not planning on eating a long-term super low-omega 6 diet (not easy in the modern world when omega 6 oils are pervasive to our entire food supply), supplementing with omega 3 might be the better option. I’m not adamantly against it by any means, I just don’t advocate taking large quantities of fish oil with a clear conscience knowing that it is an alternative that is not ideal, and could have long-term side effects.

It’s also important to remember that PUFA content of a food is only one aspect of the food in isolation. Wild-caught fish contains many things beneficial to health, such as high quantities of selenium and Vitamin D, among other things. The same could be said of nuts and seeds, rich in antioxidants and vitamin E, which keep the nuts and seeds from going rancid. Perhaps the nutrients in these foods could counteract many of the negative aspects of consuming large quantities of vegetable oil and Arachidonic Acid, and may be why the research on the consumption of nuts and seeds definitely shows universal health improvements in the general population (still doesn’t make them “optimal foods,” it’s just the context has given them faux health properties).

Lastly, don’t get too enamored with long-lived peoples. The greatest known longevity factor ever discovered is being small in size. If you’re a normal-sized human or bigger, you can probably forget about living past 100, even if you go and live with a bunch of dwarf-Japanese people (Okinawans).

And lastly (for real this time), don’t get too enamored with ancestral or traditional diets either. While clearly mankind has taken agriculture, food, and the human lifestyle in some unhealthy new directions, dealing with mediocre health in the present moment is not as simple as returning to a utopian health environment, even if it was feasible (it’s a pointless conversation really, because it’s not). If it was I could have wrapped up this health investigation of mine after six months.

I hope you could come with some input about linoleic acid in grains and legumes, and PUFAs with DHA/EPA included.

Not to get a new hard diet, but because it is interesting, and since I am so happy with eating the same all the time, that I ALLWAYS are at risk for problems due to little variation.

It is interesting, but I suggest you take interest in gourmet food instead of health and nutrition information, and seek out a wide variety of yummy things for pure hedonic pleasure. It does a body good! And tastes way better than cod liver oil.

About the Author

Matt Stone author picMatt Stone is an independent health researcher, author of more than 15 books, and founder of 180DegreeHealth. He is best known for his research on metabolic rate and its central role in many health conditions as well as his criticisms of extreme dieting. You can read more of his work in over 500 free articles on the site or in his books HERE.