The Balance of a 3:1 balance  

Is the modern diet making you sick?

There are two families of essential fatty acids (EFA); the omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids. These are essential because human beings cannot make them and they must be obtained from the diet. According to scientist Artemis P. Simopoulos, we had a good omega-6 to omega-3 balance until the 1960´s, less than 4:1, but after that it started to change and by the year 2000 the average omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acid balance in Europe had increased to 15:1.

The ratio changed because the food industry has focused on mass production and long shelf life. Increased use of vegetable oils that are high in omega-6 fatty acids combined with reduced intake of omega-3 fatty acids due to decreased fish consumption makes it worse. In addition the industrial production of animals that are fed grains containing omega-6 fatty acids have led to a meat production rich in omega-6 and poor in omega-3 fatty acids.

The same is true for poultry, eggs and even farmed fish. Even cultivated vegetables contains less omega-3 fatty acids than wild plants. In summary, modern agriculture increase the omega-6 to omega-3 balance in many foods: green leafy vegetables, animal meats, eggs, and even fish, leading to a high omega-6 intake for the first time in the history of human beings in many countries around the world.

The process of inflammation

When the omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acid balance increases, this disturbs the balance between inflammatory substances and protective substances in the cells. In the body’s cells, omega-6 increases highly inflammatory substances, substances that for example leads to pain. Omega-3 (EPA and DHA) forms other substances that counteract inflammation, protect cells against injuries and help to repair injuries that have occurred. 

Researcher Artemis P. Simopoulos has in her studies shown that when the balance between omega-6 and omega-3 is regulated down to less than 3:1, the inflammatory level in the body will be under normal control. Nordic health authorities recommend a balance between omega-6 and omega-3 of less than 5:1 in your diet. It is the omega- 6 to omega-3 ratio that tells you if you have a pro-, semi- or anti-inflammatory diet.

General recommendations from governments:

”The balance between the essential omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids should be less than 5:1 (less than 5 times more omega-6 than omega-3)”.

European references:

Nordic Nutrition Recommendations  – Integrating nutrition and physical activity, Nordic Council of Ministers, Copenhagen 2005, Sosial- og helsedirektoratet, 2005.
Reference Values for Nutrien Intake, 1st  edition. German Nutrition Society (DGE), Austrian Nutrition Society (OGE), Swiss Society for Nutrition Research (SGE) and Swiss Nutrition Association (SVE), 2002
Dumas, C., 2007. Reasons for an update of French nutritional recommendations on fatty acids and impact on claim evaluation.  French food safety agency (Afssa) report.