Nix the 6 and Eat More 3!

    Compared to today, our ancestors’ diet contained nearly equal amounts of omega-6 and omega-3 fats. This is because foods that contained omega-6s were not as plentiful, and they naturally consumed higher levels of all omega-3s, including plant-based alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), and marine-based eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) (1-3)

    Given the ubiquity of high omega-6 cooking oils and grains, and a tendency to raise cattle and poultry on high omega-6 feed, most foods in the US diet are heavy in this fatty acid. In fact, soybean oil has contributed more omega-6 than any other food due to its 1000-fold increase in consumption during the past century [4]. Today, omega-6 fatty acids constitute about 9% of all the calories in the U.S. diet, but during evolution they contributed only 1% (4-5).

    Nearly every cell and tissue in our body respond to omega-3 and omega-6 fats by producing hormones that are metabolically distinct and have opposing physiological functions (6). We only need a small amount of omega-6 to support their essential role in the body, which is why it is so important to make sure the body gets the right balance of these fats. Too much of one and not enough of the other can wreak havoc on the body in the form of cardiovascular, immune, inflammatory and psychiatric disorders, as well as atherosclerosis, arthritis, asthma, bone loss, cancer growth, heart attacks, depression, suicide, learning difficulties and behavioral issues (6).

    Omega-3 and omega-6 exert their effects when they are incorporated into cell membranes (7). Popular and emerging omega-3 supplements used by many consumers to regain balance with omega-6, come in three different forms: ethyl esters, triglycerides or phospholipids. Because they are metabolized differently, this may affect how well they are utilized by the body and ultimately integrated into the cell (8).  Pseudoscience has led many competing fish oil brands to openly dismiss ethyl ester over triglyceride forms, however more than 20 years of research has made it clear that the phospholipid form has superior bio-efficiency (8).

    Krill oil provides the phospholipid form of EPA and DHA, which is unique among marine species. Research shows that the body better utilizes it compared to traditional sources (9). Like fish oils, krill oil has been shown to promote cardiovascular health, support a healthy inflammatory response and play key roles in proper cell structure and function (10,11).

    As the omega-3 and -6 composition of our bodies are dependent on dietary intake, we can make great health strides by taking greater responsibility over our diet and choosing fats more wisely (1-6). The overconsumption of omega-6 and under-consumption of omega-3 is a global, pervasive public health crisis that must be addressed. Thankfully, marine-based omega-3 supplements are readily available and new sources like krill continue to proliferate. These options will continue to provide consumers with solutions that will help them to “nix the 6 and eat more 3” (12-14). WF



    [1] Simopoulos AP. Human requirement for N-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids. Poult Sci. 2000 Jul;79(7):961-70.

    [2] Olendzki B, Speed C, Domino FJ. Nutritional assessment and counseling for prevention and treatment of cardiovascular disease. Am Fam Physician. 2006;73(2):257-264.

    [3] Hibbeln JR, Nieminen LR, Blasbalg TL Riggs J, Lands WEM. Healthy intakes of n-3 and n-6 fatty acids: Estimations considering worldwide diversity. (Invited manuscript), Am J Clin Nutr, 2006, 83: 1483S-1493S

    [4] Blasbalg TL, Hibbeln JR, Ramsden CE, Majchrzak SF, Rawlings RR (2011) Changes in consumption of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids in the United States during the 20th century. Am J Clin Nutr 2011;93:950–62

    [5] Lands WE. Dietary fat and health: the evidence and the politics ofprevention: careful use of dietary fats can improve life and prevent disease. Ann N Y Acad Sci. 2005 Dec;1055:179-92.

    [6] Lands WE (2011) Prevent the cause, nit just the symptoms Portaglandins and Other Lipid Mediators 96: 90-93

    [7] Lands, W. (2012) Consequences of Essential Fatty Acids Nutrients. 4, (1338-1357).

    [8] J Dyerberg , P Madsen , JM Moller ,I Aardestrup ,EB Schmidt. Bioavailability of marine n-3 fatty acid formations. Prostaglandins Leutkot. Essent. Fatty Acids 83 (2010),137-141.

    [9] Schuchart, JP et al (2011) Incorporation of EPA and DHA into plasma phospholipids in response to different omega-3 fatty acid formulations – a comparative bioavailability study of fish oil vs. krill oil. Lipids in Health and Disease 10:145 

    [10] Takaichi S et al (2003) Fatty acids of astaxanthin esters in krill determined by mild mass spectrometry. Comp Biochem Physiol B Biochem Mol Biol. 136(2):317-22.

    [11] Ulven, SM. (2011) Metabolic effects of krill oil are essentially similar to those of fish oil but at lower dose of EPA and DHA, in healthy volunteers. Lipids. 2011 Jan;46(1):37-46

    [12] Ramsden CE, Hibbeln JR, Lands WE. Letter to the Editor re: Linoleic acid and coronary heart disease. Prostaglandins Leukot. Essent. Fatty Acids (2008), by W.S. Harris. Prostaglandins Leukot Essent Fatty Acids. 2009 Jan;80(1):77; author reply 77-8.

    [13] Calder PC. The American Heart Association advisory on n-6 fatty acids: evidence based or biased evidence? Br J Nutr. 2010 Dec;104(11):1575-6

     [14] Ramsden CE, Hibbeln JR, Majchrzak SF and Davis JM (2010). Omega-6 Fatty acid-specific and mixed polyunsaturate dietary interventions have different effects on CHD risk: a meta-analysis of randomised controlled trials. British Journal Nutrition. Dec 2010; 104(11):1586-1600.



    Christopher SpeedChristopher Speed, MND APD, is the communications director at OmegaWellness, Chris has helped overhaul health and wellness communication platforms of many prominent food, nutrition and supplement companies to successfully supported sales, marketing and public relations outcomes. He has worked to drive brand awareness and category leadership through evidence based nutritional science and influencer outreach.

    Chris founded and launched Minami Nutrition USA, a unique omega-3 supplement line into key North American retail accounts. With minimal marketing budget and during a recession, he helped steer the company to positive growth with significant competitive strength, resulting in its acquisition by Atrium Innovations.

    Prior to this he was the Global Director for Food and Nutrition Sciences at Ogilvy Public Relations Worldwide, where he saw first hand the importance of gaining third party support and counsel around nutrient ingredients and basing all communication platforms on the best science possible.

    He has a Master of Human Nutrition and Dietetics from the University of Sydney, continues his academic work as an Associate Editor of the European Journal of Cancer Prevention and is an adjunct Lecturer at New York University Nutrition School.

    Chris is a sought after presenter on the omega-3 industry, the role of supplementation in the prevention and management of disease and illness, biochemistry and metabolism of fatty acids and processing technologies.

    As the Communications Director of OmegaWellness, Chris provides a clear and consistent dialogue with key opinion formers in the media, retail and healthcare community. He uses his knowledge of key trends among the changing food, nutrition and supplement landscape to help provide strategic advantage to the rapidly expanding omega-3 market. 


    Posted on WholeFoods Magazine Online, 6/10/13