One nutrition researcher who claims to have been “studying nutritional controversies” for decades is David Brown of Kalispell, MT. David contacted me nearly two years ago, and we’ve kept in close contact ever since. In our health travels, we’ve both come to similar conclusions on the two greatest dietary evils – omega 6 fat and refined fructose. With all the fructose bashing going on around here lately, it only seemed fair to do a quick post on omega 6 as well, and why omega 3 fatty acids and saturated fats are the optimal fat choices to avoid omega 6 overload – which potentially results in a hyperinflammatory condition in the body.
David recently wrote this letter, and cc’ed me on the e-mail. It was worth sharing. Thanks David. The video by Bill Lands that he recommends at the end of the letter requires jumping through a few hoops to access, but is definitely interesting for those with 37 minutes to spare.
Jan. 19, 2010
Omega-6: the fat that ruins your health
by David Brown
Lately, I’ve been asking everyone I encounter what they know about omega-6 fat. The usual responses are “A little” or “Nothing.” And most of those who say “A little” actually mean “Nothing.” This is not surprising given the lack of scientific interest in the metabolic effects of excessive omega-6 intake.
A lot of heart disease research, over the past forty years, has consisted of studies in which scientists attempted to connect saturated fat consumption to heart disease. It was assumed that since saturated fats increase cholesterol levels in the bloodstream, reducing saturated fat intake would lower the risk of developing clogged arteries. More recently, scientists have shown that it is cholesterol particle size that is associated with heart attack risk, not total cholesterol. You wouldn’t know this from watching ads for statin drugs.
How does omega-6 fit into the picture? That’s a long story – almost 200 years long. Ironically, it began in France with the 1813 discovery of margaric acid by Michel Chevreul. In 1853, the German structural Chemist Wilhelm Heintz analyzed margaric acid and found it to be a combination of stearic acid and the previously unknown palmitic acid. In 1869, Emperor Louis Napoleon III of France offered a prize to anyone who could make a satisfactory substitute for butter, suitable for use by the armed forces and the lower classes. Responding to the challenge, French chemist Hippolyte M?ge-Mouri’s invented a substance he called oleomargarine. The name became shortened to the trade name “margarine.” M?ge-Mouri’s patented the concept but was unable make money manufacturing the product so in 1871 he sold the patent to the Dutch company Jurgens, now part of Unilever. In 1897, French chemist Paul Sabatier perfected a process called hydrogenation. In 1902, German chemist Wilhelm Normann was awarded a patent for the hydrogenation of liquid oils. In 1911, an American company founded by two immigrants, William Proctor, a candle maker from England and James Gamble, a soap maker from Ireland, began marketing a product called Crisco; the name being derived from the initial sounds of the expression “crystallized cottonseed oil.”
So, around a hundred years ago, food technologists began manufacturing substitutes for butter (margarine) and lard (Crisco) from seed oils and about a decade later, the death rate from heart disease began to climb precipitously.
By the 1950s, heart disease was so prevalent and people were dying from it at such a young age that finding the cause became a major priority for medical researchers. The science of epidemiology was born and massive studies were carried out in many countries to determine if there was a connection between food intake and clogged arteries. Leading the charge was University of Minnesota physiologist Ancel Keys. Dr. Keys enthusiastically promoted the idea that consuming too much saturated fat caused arteries to clog. The idea took hold and was vigorously promoted by vegetarian activists, sugar interests, the edible oils industry, and certain prominent scientists. In the 1970s the government got involved and began issuing dietary advice to lower fat intake to control weight and restrict saturated fat intake to prevent heart disease.
For the past four decades we’ve been relentlessly bombarded with messages to consume less butter, choose low fat dairy products, eat less red meat, eat fewer eggs, etc. At the same time we’ve been told to replace animal fats with margarine and polyunsaturated vegetable oil products. But food products made from seed oils are high in omega-6 fats. It’s estimated that Americans consume 10 to 30 times more omega-6 fats than omega-3 fats. Both omega-3 and omega-6 are essential fatty acids. That means we have to consume them to be healthy. However, they need to be consumed in roughly equal amounts because the body does not have the ability to sort nutrients to balance their concentration in tissues.
For further explanation I urge readers to watch this 37 minute presentation entitled Why Omega-6 Fats Matter for Your Health by Dr. Bill Lands. http://www.iamplify.com/store/product_details/Evelyn-Tribole-MS-RD/Learn-Why-Omega-6-Fats-Matter-to-Your-Health/product_id/6949
Dr. Lands points out that supplementing with omega-3 will, indeed, reduce your risk of dying from a heart attack. However, it will not reduce your risk of having one. To reduce risk of heart attack you must reduce intake of omega-6 fats.
Nutrition Education Project
I think it's interesting that "Omega 3s" seem to be all the rage these days. I see it advertised all over everything whether they are useful forms of omega-3s (EPA, DHA) or poor ones (ALA). What people tend not to know is that it is the RATIO of omega 3s to omega 6s that is the biggest determinant of health. Kudos to you, David Brown, for tackling this important topic.
And what causes the greatest mismatch in the ratio? Low intake of omega 3 or high intake of omega 6?
The high intake of omega 6 is by far the greater culprit in this global imbalance. On a quantity basis, vegetable oils provide a quantity that is almost completely impossible to override with omega 3, and like Lands' video reports, omega 3 supplementation is very ineffective if you have a high level of omega 6 in your tissues. You have to lower omega 6 AND get omega 3.
But it's no panacea. The worst my health ever was – the absolute bottom for me, was after being a fish and dairy-only vegetarian for many years and finishing up working at a fishing lodge in Alaska where I ate 3-5 pounds of salmon every day. So I know there's more to the story than "get lots of omega 3."
i have to agree… its not just about eating more omega 3s… I think its far more important to cut the omega six out, and load up on saturated fat. From where chris masterjohns research has led him,… you only need trace amounts of dha… All grassfed animal products come with optimal ratios to me… highly saturated, then mono, and a good low omega 3 dose.
hmmm… i don't know… is there any favorite omega three supplements out there. I have taken the fermented cod liver oil before, and vital choices alaskan salmon oil… but not for years now… wondering if i should rethink it.. but i take in so little polyunsaturates that i don't think it will make any difference…. what do you think matt?
When I first found WAPF/NT I was pounding high vitamin CLO. I have since cut way back and take one or two teaspoons a week.
Get enough omega6 from some of the carb sources, and omega3 from the grassfed beef/milk and pastured eggs.
Hopefully in line with a traditional balance, I am sure my body is still cleaning out all the PUFA's from years gone by…
I think that omega 3s in natural food are the best choice. I used to take cod liver oil daily, but that was horrible, you have to burp it up and keep tasting it all day. Plus, cod liver oil or fish oil is a processed food. Even it is a good quality fish oil it still oxidizes and who knows how long it was sitting in a bottle and if it was handled or stored properly. I think eating rancid fish oil would be just as bad as eating rancid soy bean oil. I'm actually doing krill oil right now since it is higher in antioxidant and doesn't oxidize as easily I guess. I don't think I will continue after I finish this bottle. I sure do not feel any difference if I take it or not. Plus, I agree that if you keep your omega 6s low that you probably get enough omega 3s from normal food.
Matt, when you were eating lots of fish and found yourself in worse health, do you think that mercury and other toxins in fish could have contributed to that?
Thanks guys. Vida, I made a mistake in my post above. I was eating 3-5 pounds of salmon per week, not per day. Big difference.
My health sucked primarily because I was still eating sugar, and trying to eat less and exercise more every day of my life. Eating more fats, no sugar at all, 3 balanced meals per day, etc. is what improved my health.
A woman named Marilyn was having trouble posting comments. She wrote this to me via e-mail:
Last winter (a year ago) I had a bad experience that I now suspect may be related to taking a large daily dose (one tablespoon) of Blue Ice cod liver oil (the high vitamin oil popular among the WAPF crowd). I have since read not only Ray Peat's position on these fats, but have also found articles by Guy Schenker, D.C., and Brian Peskin (Peskin has also written a book). I know it's controversial, and, of course, Dr Mary Enig has countered some of their claims. They seem to have research to back up their statements, though. (But, then so does everyone, no matter what their position).
My bad (scary) symptoms began to abate once I stopped taking the oil. I stopped because I found that my vitamin D level was up to 90ng/ml. There was another matter that seems to be a factor as well, and it's hard to be certain of the relationship to the oil. Nevertheless, I am suspicious for a number of reasons. I have eaten only whole foods for many years, and do not have a history of using any other PUFA's in many years. The only exception would be sesame oil which I used in small quantities during my macrobiotic days more than 12 years ago.
I can no longer find the link to Schenker's newsletters, but a search took me to the Hyperlipid website where the links are provided in the current article: http://high-fat-nutrition.blogspot.com/2008/09/on-plus-side-for-fish-oils.html
There seems to be some discussion now on this topic, and I've been hoping that perhaps you and your readers would take it up. I can't help but wonder if these fish oils are causing health problems in the unsuspecting who are trying to improve their nutrition. I've even eliminated nuts for the most part, and am doing quite well without PUFA's.in my diet.
I responded with:
Thanks Marilyn. My position for the last couple of years has been to avoid omega 6 within reason, and eat some occasional fish. I am not an advocate of fish oils, and certainly not an advocate of cod liver oil. It's disgusting and is a good way to get a stomachache, not healthy. I'll try to leave a comment to that effect later. Was going to do a short post later this week on what are the optimal food choices to reduce omega 6 intake. Lack of omega 3 has never really been the problem here. The imbalance arose due to one thing and one thing only – the use of vegetable oils in the modern diet. Without those, this problem would not have occurred to the extent it has (the accumulation of these fats in our tissues, collectively).
But I do suspect that part of your problems could have easily stemmed from cod liver oil, which is often very impure, and if you were able to get your D levels that high, vitamin toxicity certainly could've been part of the issue as well. Blaming it all on omega 3 may be premature. But I don't disagree that it could be a factor, and the mainstream focus on getting more omega 3 instead of avoiding vegetable oil like the plague is bass ackwards.
I don't know why your comment didn't go through, but I'll cut and paste our dialogue into the comments section right now. Thanks so much for your participation. It helps so much. There's somebody out there poisoning themselves with cod liver oil too that will be enlightened by this I'm sure.
Hey Matt, just a quick question. You say to eat 3 meals per day only, but many others, including Dr. Schwarzbein say to eat 3 meals plus snacks. So do you think that snacking is good or bad?
Temp update: my body temp has gone up quite a bit in less than 2 weeks. The first several days I got 95.9 and even lower readings (95.0) was the lowest. Past several days it has been 96.1, 96.7, and today 96.8, and all taken before I get out of bed in the morning. Is it supposed to go up so fast?
Vida, I have read that if your adrenals need to heal/rest, you can have very reactive temps that are high one day and low the next. If your temps are stable and climbing, that is a good thing!
Vegetable oils mostly provide empty calories, that in itself is a good reason to avoid them. Some have a little vitamin e, but most manufacturers add the vitamin to prevent rancidity. Animal fats, of course, have preformed vitamin A and vitamin K, especially in grass fed beef and dairy.
I think switching from vegetable oils/spreads to butter, coconut oil, and some olive oil was one of the best changes we've made. It's honestly one of the easiest, too. Cooking with coconut oil and butter is so delicious, beats nasty "vegetable" oil every time.
I do think people forget animal fat is NOT 100% saturated – not even close. Even if you ate only animal fats you'd still be getting in a good deal of monounsaturated and some polyunsaturated fats. There's really no need to go out of your way to eat any other kind of oil, besides a little omega-3 supplementation if you think you need it.
We do take fermented cod liver oil, about a half-teaspoon on most days for me and the kids. This dose is pretty tolerable for us, no trouble burping it up or anything. I'm still pretty convinced that this amount is beneficial for us, but it's good to know that more is not necessarily better. A tablespoon a day is an awful lot for someone without vitamin deficiencies. It's also an awful lot to stomach – yuck.
I went to this photography exhibit Hungry Planet over the week-end. (Blogged about it in depth at janeaustendiet.blogspot.com) In every photo the predominant fat was processed vegetable oil. With soybean oil and coca bottles lurking in the background of every picture it's only a matter of time before the healthiest diets become destructive.
I agree Elizabeth, switching to coconut oil and butter for all cooking has been the easiest and most powerful shift I've made. It makes eating out really, really hard though, but every time I do, I feel the digestive effects almost immediately.
i've been taking cod liver oil for almost 5 years now and i have never had problems. i only take Blue Ice brand and i now only take the fermented. while nursing my babies i take 2 teaspoons daily and otherwise i take 1 tsp. i never burp it up and i barely taste it when i follow it with a shot of kombucha or orange juice. you can't write off cod liver oil on just one person's experience or even on Ray Peat's advice. marilyn did not even go into details about what her symptoms were that she thinks is related to the oil. CLO has helped a lot of people. i have seen friends' kids do better in school and have their behavior change b/c of it. and these are SAD people for sure. a lot of people are not willing to change their diet to the extreme that we are so if taking CLO over drugs helps then that's great for them. also, most people aren't willing to put their kids out in the sun, let alone out in the sun without sunscreen so they are not getting vitamin D in any significant quantity. my friends all think i am going to kill my kids b/c i don't slather them with sunscreen. sheesh.
No kidding…I started going to the pool last year in April, so it was still kind of cool, like 70/75 max. Parents still slathered their kids full of sunscreen…even on cloudy days. On the weekends, even if we went swimming at night when hardly anyone was at the pool, the water was heavy, greasy, and stinky like sunblock. My son did not wear sunblock not once last year. He got a beautiful tan, he only got a little red on his cheeks and shoulders for a couple days while we were in FL and out at the beach 6 hours a day. I love the sun.
Not only does vitamin D prevent cancer, but sunblocks cause cancer. What a scam.
Vida, just checking that you know that there is quite a big difference in temperatures between the luteal and follicular phases of the month for women. :)
I pretty well have to stay out of the sun, entirely, because I don't wear sunscreen and I am so prone to burning, due to my complexion (red-head). In less than 30 minutes, I have been so badly burned that my skin blistered. I'm not talking about peeling, here, I'm talking big huge fluid-filled groddy blisters. I've only been that badly burned by the sun about 4 times, but they were so horrible that I'll never forget how it felt. And the few times that I get a more minor burn are still terrible because it basically knocks me out for a whole day afterward. When I use my UVB light, I can only use it for about 1 minute per area of my body before I get a burn. Doh!
Annabelle do you consequently take a Vit D3 supplement?
No – I get terrible side effects from any D supplements – it actually lowers my immunity, for some reason. I always get sick if I take D3 supplements. I found that out the hard way, from many attempts. That's why I have my UVB light.
Thanks for publishing my letter on your blog. I've been trying to formulate a classroom analogy for fats. It goes something like this.
Saturated fats are like the gifted and talented students because they have many important functions.
Monounsaturated fats are like average students because they do little more than furnish energy.
Polyunsaturated fats are like teachers. Only one or two are needed per classroom. A glut of teachers diminishes efficiency.
Not a perfect analogy but I kind of like it.
First, I want to say that your blog is a wealth of information! I am an ex-low carber who had a less than satisfactory experience with it like many of your readers, so I am glad I stumbled across your blog.
I have a question which is sort of tied to the subject of omega6 – I am trying to find a suitable oil to make homemade mayo so that I don't have to buy the yucky soybean oil crap at the store anymore. I tried making it with extra-virgin olive oil, but I thought it tasted nasty. I wonder about using light olive oil instead since it is pretty flavorless, but would it be considered a rancid, damaged oil because of the refining process? Is there any other oil that you would recommend?
Some people do half olive oil half coconut oil. 100% coconut oil would be too solid. Some people use bacon grease and I heard pretty much the best oil for it is Macadamia oil, but that's damn expensive.
Not really experienced in that area though. Only made mayo once with half olive oil and half goose fat, which was pretty nice.
I find macadamia nut oil way too strong-tasting for mayo.
I use extra light olive oil for mayo. Maybe a splash of extra virgin.
I've come to prefer using sour cream/creme fraiche as a substitute for mayo. For example, I recently began using sour cream to make Caesar dressing instead of the traditional mayo. You might try making some kind of spread with sour cream, lemon juice, chopped scallions, cayenne, salt, and fresh herbs instead of mayo or flavored mayo.
Speaking of ex-low carbers. Jimmy Moore's calling me in 56 minutes! I'm freaking out!
heeha' heeha'!!! oh shit… its already begun!!! hope you don't pee your pants… goodluck!!!
For mayo you could use sunflower oil. It is high mono-unsaturated or even almond oil. I've seen at some Whole Foods a fresh mayo from France (not where the other jarred mayos are, but in the refrigeration) that is made with sunflower oil and it is so yummy.
Interestingly, if you Google "Omega-6: The Fat That Ruins Your Health" the first choice is this: http://theholisticoption.com/Pages/Article_Homemade_Mayonnaise_Won_t_Ruin_Your_Picnic_or_Your_Health_177.aspx
Dr. Mercola's comment:
Love Mayonnaise? There's Good News?
Homemade mayonnaise is not only incredibly easy to make, it can actually be quite good for your health. A basic mayonnaise recipe uses just a few ingredients:
? Egg yolks
? Vinegar or lemon juice
Now, instead of using an unhealthy oil like soybean, use a healthy one like extra virgin olive oil. Whip the ingredients together (adjust the amounts to your taste) and you have a spread that’s not only good for you, but tastes so delicious you won’t ever want to go back to the store-bought version.
Another option that I personally use is a grape-seed oil mayonnaise, which I enjoy very much and is available in most health food stores in the refrigerated section.
OMG, please tell me you're joking, people! Sunflower oil? Almond oil? Grape-seed oil? That sounds like a recipe for cancer, not mayonnaise.
Thanks Sam. I'm sticking with my advice. Make mayo with extra light olive oil, or preferably, don't eat it at all. The only liquid oils I'd actually choose to consume would be a little bit of olive oil, macadamia nut oil, and coconut oil. The reason is due to the fact that these 3 oils have the lowest concentration of omega 6, which adds up incredibly quickly when in the form of a highly concentrated oil.
Mercola, grapeseed oil. Give me a friggin' break.
Thanks everybody for your suggestions on oils for mayo. I guess I'll stick with light olive oil if I want to make mayonnaise. Matt, I like your idea of using sour cream to make a dressing, though. I will have to try that out!
Matt,what happened to the interview with Jimmy?
Matt with your previous comment about the Oils, it would be cool if you could do a little blog post with your opinion on the best sources of fat for health? It would be pretty helpful for many readers in choosing what to use (in abundance) for cooking and dressing etc…..
I plan to do exactly that in a matter of hours.
As for the inteview with Jimmy, it went well but won't be out for a couple of months. You'll be the first to know when it comes out. I geeked out a little too hard on some things, but I still sent some lifelines out to the low-carbers, including making reference to Atkins quote, in which he says that dieting of any kind, including the Atkins diet, "tends to slow down the thyroid."
Which is probably why it leads to a dead end for most despite whatever the initial results may be.
Vitalzym is effective for a number of major functionalities of the body like, growth, digestion, breathing, and reproduction.For more visit: http://www.enzymemedical.com/vitalzym
I really liked your article on omega 3 and omega 6 imbalance. I have put together a program that teaches people how to get their balance back. It also includes a blood test.
This video explains it in detail…
website is: http://www.enhancedomegawellness.com
Let me know if you’d like to learn more about it.
Your blog “David Brown on Omega 6 Fats ? 180 Degree Health” has a lot of the information I was looking for. I found your post (David Brown on Omega 6 Fats ? 180 Degree Health) on Facebook, so it seems other folks like your current article as well.