Why Having the Right Omega-6 to Omega-3 Ratio Is Important

February 4, 2022

Why Having the Right Omega-6 to Omega-3 Ratio Is Important

There are two essential nutrients that your body needs: Omega-3 and Omega-6 Fatty Acids.

Here’s the catch, though…

Your body can’t produce them on its own, so they have to come from food.

Which can be tricky…

For one, your body can only take a limited amount of omega-6 and omega-3s at once.

Second, it’s crucial that you get the right omega-6 to omega-3 ratio.

When you get that ratio right, you’re setting your body up to reap all of the benefits that these fatty acids have to offer (think: hormone balance, heart health, a healthy weight, and more).

However, getting too much of one and not enough of the other can cause problems…

Problems that are running rampant across America…

Studies show that 90% of Americans have an omega-3 deficiency, yet are consuming 20 TIMES the healthy amount of omega-6s (1). Needless to say, our current omega-6 to omega-3 ratio is a little off-kilter…

In this article, you’ll get answers on the difference between omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids, what their ideal ratio is, and why that ratio is so important (plus: how you can achieve a healthy dose of omega-3s every single day, no matter what).

Table Of Contents

What Are Omega-6 and Omega-3 Fatty Acids?

Omega-6 and omega-3s are two essential fatty acids, meaning that your body can’t create them on its own, so they must be obtained from food.

Often referred to as “polyunsaturated fats” (or PUFAs), a type of unstable fat, they’re more likely to become oxidized—a chemical reaction that leads to the formation of harmful free radicals and painful inflammation.

Because there are both good and bad PUFAs, it’s important to know to 2 things: 

  1. Which types to incorporate into your diet (and which to avoid).
  2. How many omega-6s and omega-3s you’re consuming on a daily basis (to ensure you’re hitting your ideal ratio).

So, what are the main differences between omega-6 and omega-3?

The Importance of the Omega-3 to Omega-6 Ratio

The #1 distinction between omega-6s and omega-3s is that omega-6s are extremely easy to overconsume. Whereas omega-3s are often lacking in the American diet.

A whopping 10% of the calories in the Western diet are made up of omega-6 fats (2). This means that the tissue in your body is bursting at the seams with omega-6s—nearly quadruple what one’s caloric intake should be…

When too many omega-6s are consumed, your body is thrown into an inflammatory state, leading to a heightened risk of health issues like obesity, heart disease, type 2 diabetes, autoimmune disorders, cancer, depression, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), and rheumatoid arthritis (345).

Omega 6 and omega 3 staying in balance, pictured as a metal scale with weights and labels omega 6 and omega 3 to symbolize balance and symmetry of those concepts. 3D illustration.

So, how many omega-6s and omega-3s should you consume each day?

When taking into account the diet of our ancestors, we know that our body does best when we have an optimal ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids.

The ratio that our ancestors consumed was about 1:1.

To compare, our modern Western diet has a ratio closer to 20:1, which explains why health issues like heart disease, obesity, and cancer have skyrocketed (6).

Omega-6 and omega-3 both compete for space in your body. And thanks to America’s shift to eating more highly processed vegetable oils, grains, and grain-fed beef, it’s easy to load up on too many omega-6s and not enough omega-3s…

How to Achieve the Right Omega-6 to Omega-3 Ratio

A commonly suggested omega-6 to omega-3 ratio today is 4:1. Meaning, if you were to consume 7 grams of omega-6, you should consume just 1.75 grams of omega-3.

Scientific studies using this ratio have seen a reduction in mortality risk by a staggering 70% (7).

However, research also shows that one’s ideal ratio depends on the condition of their health. For example, if you suffer from rheumatoid arthritis or certain types of cancer, an omega-6 to omega-3 ratio around 2:1 or 3:1 may be more beneficial (7).

A third scientific opinion by anti-aging experts favors a more even omega-6 to omega-3 ratio of 1:1—the same ratio our ancestors abided by (8).

Whichever ratio you decide to follow, know this: You only need around 7 grams of omega-6 fatty acids each day to experience health benefits.

To give you an idea of how easy it is to over-consume omega-6, take a look at this list of common foods…

Amount of omega-6 in a 100-gram serving (9):

  • Sunflower oil: 66 grams
  • Cottonseed oil: 52 grams
  • Soybean oil: 51 grams
  • Sesame oil: 41 grams
  • Canola oil: 20 grams
  • Walnuts: 38 grams
  • The skin on a chicken: 3 grams
  • The skin on a turkey: 2 grams
  • Eggs: 1 gram

So how can you cut back on omega-6s while increasing your omega-3 consumption? Read on to find out…

How to Increase Your Omega-3 Intake

Omega-3s come with outstanding health benefits, including heart health, brain health, bone and joint health, better sleep, and more (10111213).

One of the best ways to ensure you’re getting enough omega-3s in your diet is by eating foods that naturally contain omega-3. And because the best source of omega-3 is found in marine sources, the best food options include the following:

  • Salmon
  • Mackerel
  • Tuna
  • Sardines
  • Herring
  • Trout
  • Anchovies

To ensure you’re getting adequate amounts of omega-3, you’ll need to eat about 4 ounces of fish, three times a week.

Now I don't know about you, but that’s a LOT of fish…

An amount that isn’t quite sustainable…

Luckily, there’s a simpler way to get these same benefits—without having to go out and buy 2 pounds of salmon every week…

The solution, you ask?

Krill Oil.

Heart-healthy red krill oil softgels on white background.

Krill oil comes from a small, shrimp-like crustacean called krill. Thanks to its extremely high levels of omega-3 fatty acids, it has been shown to improve memory, inflammation, depression, arthritis, and more. All without the fishy aftertaste.

And if you’re thinking to yourself, “But I already take fish oil. Do I really need to take krill oil?”

Well, because krill has been proven to be the healthier, more effective alternative, my answer to that question is: Yes, without a doubt.

To learn why krill oil is the better option, read this article next: Krill Oil vs. Fish Oil: 6 Reasons Why Krill Is the Better Choice

500mg of Krill Oil In One Small Softgel

The Bottom Line: Focus on Omega-3 Consumption

Omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids are two types of polyunsaturated fats—with one being under-consumed and the other being over-consumed.

With an omega-6 to omega-3 ratio that should look like 4:1, in the United States, it looks more like 20:1.

This is thanks to an excess of highly-processed oils (hint: sunflower oil, canola oil, safflower oil…) that make an appearance in many of the food products we see today.

To experience optimal health, it’s best to consume only the amount of omega-6s your body needs to function (approximately 7 grams) and focus on consuming more omega-3s, like krill oil. In short, you’ll want to increase your omega-3 intake while decreasing your omega-6 intake.

For a noticeable improvement in your overall health and wellbeing, consider a wild-caught krill oil supplement to meet your daily omega-3 needs. With just one small softgel a day, you’ll benefit from an improved mood, better memory, reduced inflammation, and much more.

Better Brain Health, without the fishy aftertaste
Dr. Chad Walding
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Dr. Chad Walding

As a doctor of Physical Therapy, Senior Wellness Expert, and co-founder of NativePath, Dr. Walding has helped millions of people improve their quality of life from the inside out—by speaking, writing, and educating others on how to live life a little more #OnThePath.

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    Medical Disclaimer

    This content is for informational and educational purposes only. It is not intended to provide medical advice or to take the place of such advice or treatment from a personal physician. All readers/viewers of this content are advised to consult their doctors or qualified health professionals regarding specific health questions. Neither Dr. Chad Walding nor the publisher of this content takes responsibility for possible health consequences of any person or persons reading or following the information in this educational content. All viewers of this content, especially those taking prescription or over-the-counter medications, should consult their physicians before beginning any nutrition, supplement, or lifestyle program.

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