June 07, 2009
Low Omega 3 Fatty Acids Boost Inflammation?

We might have more allergy and autoimmune diseases due to an imbalance of too much omega 6 fatty acids as compared to omega 3 fatty acids. An increase in omega 3 fatty acids alters gene expression to lower inflammation-related genes.

For the past century, changes in the Western diet have altered the consumption of omega-6 fatty acids (w6, found in meat and vegetable oils) compared with omega-3 fatty acids (w3, found in flax and fish oil). Many studies seem to indicate this shift has brought about an increased risk of inflammation (associated with autoimmunity and allergy), and now using a controlled diet study with human volunteers, researchers may have teased out a biological basis for these reported changes.

Anthropological evidence suggests that human ancestors maintained a 2:1 w6/w3 ratio for much of history, but in Western countries today the ratio has spiked to as high as 10:1. Since these omega fatty acids can be converted into inflammatory molecules, this dietary change is believed to also disrupt the proper balance of pro- and anti- inflammatory agents, resulting in increased systemic inflammation and a higher incidence of problems including asthma, allergies, diabetes, and arthritis.

Floyd Chilton and colleagues wanted to examine whether theses fatty acids might have other effects, and developed a dietary intervention strategy in which 27 healthy humans were fed a controlled diet mimicking the w6/w3 ratios of early humans over 5 weeks. They then looked at the gene levels of immune signals and cytokines (protein immune messengers), that impact autoimmunity and allergy in blood cells and found that many key signaling genes that promote inflammation were markedly reduced compared to a normal diet, including a signaling gene for a protein called PI3K, a critical early step in autoimmune and allergic inflammation responses.

This study demonstrates, for the first time in humans, that large changes in gene expression are likely an important mechanism by which these omega fatty acids exert their potent clinical effects.

Omega 3 fatty acids are on a small list of nutrients I get from pills. Most nutritional improvements should come from better foods. But unless you are going to eat fish regularly you're probably going to need supplements to get enough omega 3 fatty acids.

Share |      Randall Parker, 2009 June 07 05:22 PM  Aging Diet Studies

bbartlog said at June 7, 2009 6:01 PM:

But unless you are going to eat fish regularly you're probably going to need supplements to get enough omega 3 fatty acids.

It's not necessarily something everyone has access to, but milk from exclusively grass-fed cows has a 1:1 ratio (see http://www.karlloren.com/diet/p100.htm). Range-fed eggs, 1.5:1 (but true range-fed eggs, no significant grain inputs, are damned near impossible to obtain). Grass-fed beef, 2:1.

As an aside, a great many of the rat studies that have been done to analyze the effects of fat in the diet used exclusively corn oil (46:1 ratio, truly awful) as the source of dietary fat, and I believe that this is likely to have been one of the principal drivers behind all of the 'fat is bad for you' data that has been compiled in rat studies.

John said at June 8, 2009 12:45 AM:

I believe you can get all the O3 you need from eating a tin of sardines a day. You also get a healthy dose of Vitamin D (which now appears to be another miracle substance), and melatonin to help you sleep.

It is dangerous to eat the larger oily fish on a daily basis because of mercury; but sardines are small enough and low enough in the food chain that is not supposed to be a problem. Cheap too!

Since I started eating sardines for fish oil, I've been sleeping like a baby. (Though I did replace coffee with green tea at the same time -- so who knows).

Tom said at June 8, 2009 1:49 AM:


perhaps you could tell us what supplements you DO take? Like you I think most are a Waste of Money. For the record, I take vitamin D3 (3000iu), resveratrol, flax, aspirin, omega 3, q10 and 1 multivitamin per day

Great site by the way.


Eric said at June 8, 2009 7:09 AM:

John , do you eat the sardines at night?. I would think proteins wave you up. Tuna has a stimulating effect for me, sardines I am not sure.

Also, do you eat canned sardines?. I like sardines, but the smell is strong.


bbartlog said at June 8, 2009 8:34 AM:

I believe you can get all the O3 you need from eating a tin of sardines a day.

Maybe so, but I'm not sure I could keep that up indefinitely. I like sardines, but I'd probably develop an aversion to them eventually if I tried to eat a tin a day.

Dan said at June 8, 2009 11:17 AM:

What you don't say is how much Omega 3 you need.

From what I've read it seems that at least 1600 mg a day is necessary to get real benefits.

JP said at June 8, 2009 11:44 AM:

You can get all the Omega 3's you need thru Flax Seed oil. My favorite is Barlens - 6200 mg/tbsp. Made a big difference for me.

Jeff said at June 8, 2009 12:13 PM:

Flax only has the short-chain Omega 3 EFA or precursors- your body has to work to convert these into DHA and EPA that fish oil supplies(best to get both flax and fish oil)...it is an amazing food though...best way to use flax is to buy a $10 spice grinder and buy whole organic flax seed in bulk for about $1 - $2 per pound and store it in the freezer - that way no worries about rancidity and much cheaper than the oil...

SteveL said at June 8, 2009 12:35 PM:

If one already has early osteoarthritis can it be fought with more Omega 3?

TallDave said at June 8, 2009 12:53 PM:

I eat a couple tablespoons of ground flax meal every day in my protein shake, in addition to fish oil capsules twice a day.

Brock said at June 8, 2009 1:02 PM:

Getting total linoleic acid (both 3 and 6) under 4% of total calories while getting as close as possible to a 1:1 ratio is the real ticket, per the Lyon Heart Health Study.

See the top two posts as of today: http://wholehealthsource.blogspot.com/

Anton said at June 8, 2009 1:13 PM:

And don't forget Lycopene!


John said at June 8, 2009 1:45 PM:

If one already has early osteoarthritis can it be fought with more Omega 3?

If you have early Osteoarthritis, one of the best things to do is take a high quality Glucoasmine and Chondroitin supplement (make sure it is a good one, alot of them are crap). There is also a new supplement called ASU (Avocado-Soy Unsaponfiables). Both of these products have been used for a long time in Europe. They help ease pain in more severe cases, and appear to halt joint damage and improve cartilage. Several supplements available contain all three.

A great book to read is The Arthritis Cure by Dr. Jason Theodosakis.

O3 helps too, as it reduces inflamation, which causes much of the pain in arthritis.

John , do you eat the sardines at night?. I would think proteins wave you up. Tuna has a stimulating effect for me, sardines I am not sure. Also, do you eat canned sardines?. I like sardines, but the smell is strong.

I usually eat sardines in a salad with lots of oil dressing. If you don't like the taste/smell, this masks it.

I think it can be dangerous to eat tuna everyday because of mercury.

Vader said at June 8, 2009 1:50 PM:

You'd think, given the dismal record of claims that increasing the intake this or that micronutrient miraculously improves health, that there'd be a touch more skepticism here.

Most such claims have simply not held up on further investigation.

Eat what you like, within reason, and get some fresh air, sunshine, and exercise. Play with your kids or grandkids or dog. You'll do about as well as anyone else.

Measing, you'll die someday of something. It's a part of life.

Reid said at June 8, 2009 3:49 PM:

Krill oil is superior to fish oil unfortunately it is very expensive.

Eric said at June 8, 2009 4:06 PM:

What do you think of this anti PUFA website:

In declaring EPA and DHA to be safe, the FDA neglected to evaluate their antithyroid, immunosuppressive, lipid peroxidative (Song et al., 2000), light sensitizing, and antimitochondrial effects, their depression of glucose oxidation (Delarue et al., 2003), and their contribution to metastatic cancer (Klieveri, et al., 2000), lipofuscinosis and liver damage, among other problems.
The fats that we synthesize from sugar, or coconut oil, or oleic acid, the omega-9 series, are protective against the inflammatory PUFA, in some cases more effective even than vitamin E.

Arthritic said at June 8, 2009 4:08 PM:

How can you tell which G&C is crap?

John said at June 8, 2009 4:16 PM:

How can you tell which G&C is crap?

Avoid store brands.

Theodosakis tested a bunch for his book. He says good ones are:

Osteo Bi-Flex
Cosamin DS

Theodosakis also started his own brand; and you can check test results on his website.

Since ASU is so new in North America the only reputable products that combine it with G&C are made by Cosamin and by Theodosakis himself.

Arthritic said at June 8, 2009 6:20 PM:

Thank you.

Randall Parker said at June 9, 2009 2:41 AM:


I do not see evidence in population studies that higher fish eaters have more health problems. Look at the Japanese for example. They've got a higher rate of stomach cancer. But by what other measure are they doing worse than us?


I'm skeptical of antioxidant vitamin supplements and the evidence there has been pretty disappointing. But for a few nutrients (e.g. vitamin D and omega 3 fatty acids) boosting them in our diets looks beneficial. Westerners are not eating anywhere near ideal diets. I think (and I repeatedly say) that we should focus more on improving what foods we eat. But a few nutrients as supplements look beneficial for most people. Granted, some people get enough omega 3's from fish. But there's not enough fish in the sea for most people to do that.

In said at June 9, 2009 3:24 PM:

How about a grass roots movement to improve the quaulity of the food so that it contains more omega 3s. Convince people to spend more on less, but higher quality, more humanely raised meat. Many would do it if they believed it could improve thier health. Somehow we need to inform those people.

zylonet said at June 9, 2009 7:58 PM:

For anyone interested in using fish oil to treat inflammation, be advised that the true benefit comes from at least 10g/day of fish oil; up to 15g for some people. Do not believe that 1-3g/day is going to help you. Efficacious doses typically begin at 10g. My life has been fundamentally transformed by jumping to 10g/day (30% formula) from 2g/day.

If you Google "bulk fish oil" you can find huge containers of soft gels for cheap.
Here is a link: http://dabnutrition.net/NutraBulkOmega3-Fish-Oil-1000mg/M/B000QGLTWG.htm?traffic_src=froogle&utm_medium=organic&utm_source=froogle

Trust me on the dosage. If you suffer inflammation, try the 10-15g/day for 3 months. I take 4g in the AM, 4g at lunch and 4g at dinner. I also take a Vitamin E with the AM softgels. Your mileage may vary, but my results are real and have blown away all pharma treatments for skin problems.

Good luck.

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