Our bodies need both omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. The Western diet is generally dominated by omega-6 fatty acids.

Before the industrial revolution, our diet contained roughly the same amount of omega-3 fatty acids as omega-6 fatty acids. Now, we eat more omega-6 than omega-3.

The recommended ratio between omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids in our diet is 5:1. This means we should not eat more than five times as much omega-6 as omega-3. The ratio between omega-6 and omega-3 among some population groups who eat a Western diet can be as high as 10:1 or even 20:1.

The omega-6 content has increased in many types of food

Modern agriculture and industrialisation have made grain products, soya and other plant ingredients with a high omega-6 content more easily available.

This has led to an increase in omega-6 fatty acids in many types of foods, such as meat, eggs and dairy products.

We eat more meat and less seafood

We eat more and more meat, while there has been no significant increase in the intake of fish and other types of seafood. Some population groups such as children, young people and pregnant women hardly eat fish at all.

In addition to the changed ratio between omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids, we now eat more fat in general, especially saturated fat.

Competition between omega-6 and omega-3

Omega-6 competes with omega-3 for incorporation in the body’s cells. It is important that we have a sufficient quantity of both of these types of fatty acids in our cells. The higher our omega-6 intake, the more omega-3 we must consume to ensure there is enough in our cells. By reducing our omega-6 intake, we can increase the omega-3 content in our cells.

Improving the balance between our intake of omega-6 and omega-3 can be one of the keys to reducing and preventing obesity, types 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

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