Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Omega 3 and Liver Health

Most scientists agree that Americans consume far too much Omega 6 and not enough Omega 3 fatty acids. Omega 3 is anti-inflammatory and Omega 6 is inflammatory. This abstract shows another reason why consuming Omega 3 fatty acids is important to maintain your health.

Four human studies show improved liver health and function with those consuming more Omega 3. The abstract specially mentions Omega 3 from marine sources, but there are sources of Omega 3 that are not from fish. These sources include: flax seeds, chia seeds, hempseeds, and walnuts to name a few. If you choose to supplement with fish oil there are many brands that have been detoxified.

Diabetes is running rampant in this country and one of the consequences of this condition is non-alcoholic fatty liver, which can lead to liver failure. If you know anyone that drinks too much, has diabetes or eats too much fatty food you might send the link to this abstract so they can discuss this with their doctor.

How did our proportion of Omega 3 to Omega 6 get out of balance in this country? I think it is due to how much unnecessary fat we consume in the form of oil, margarine, fried foods, and conventional meat. Did you know that even conventional chicken breast contains Omega 6 fat? That was a fact that surprised me the first time I read it.

If this is a topic that interests you there is a lot of published data on the subject that can keep you reading for weeks. At our house we moderate our risk by adding very little fat (in the form of oil or margarine) to our food. Our fats come from whole sources like nuts, seeds, and avocados. Initially foods taste different without the added oil, but in a week or so food prepared without oil tastes cleaner and with more distinct flavors.


  1. Great article! I take an Omega 3-6-9 supplement everyday, and they seem to keep my migraines at bay.

  2. Kristi,

    Thanks! I am glad you liked it.

    If I see anything else on nutrition and migraines (during my reading), I will send it your way.


  3. So true.

    I've also noted over the years that there is a common misconception that you can't get the necessary amounts of Omega-3's on a vegan diet...that is just false. In fact, most omnivores are deficient in Omega-3.

  4. Rose,

    Really good point about most omnis having a deficit. Thanks so much for mentioning it.


  5. I've been meaning to ask you a question. You've written about eating walnuts for their Omega-3 fatty acids so I've looked into it. The thing is, walnuts are very high in omega-6 fatty acids.

    I've tabulated values for commons nuts (I know, peanut isn't a nut), showing grams of omega 6 per total gram of the nut.
    g omega 6 per total g
    peanut 0.155479452
    walnut 0.3304
    almond 0.12
    cashew 0.078571429

    In my case, I've been eating peanut butter for lunch pretty much every day I'm at work. I was curious because I know I'm consuming a lot of omega-6, so I thought about walnut butter as an alternative (which I haven't been able to find commercially, but that's another matter). From that data, cashew butter would be the best. I won't be getting omega-3s, but my omega-6's will decrease, which I can hopefully make up by consuming chia as I typically do in my smoothie.

    Sorry for the length, but I was wondering what your thoughts were on the matter. -Matt

  6. Matt,

    Great comment, as always. Let me go back to my original source, do a little quick analysis and get back to you with a complete answer.

    My quick answer from memory is that all nuts seem to contain omega 3, 6 and 9 but in different proportions. Let see if my analysis shows that to be correct. I will get back to you on this soon and thank you for the excellent comment and question!


  7. i still cant look flaxseed oil in the eye

  8. Matt,

    Sorry for the delay, it took me a little while to find the info in one place.

    I looked at almonds, brazil nuts, cashews, hazelnuts, macadamias, peanuts, pecans, pistachios and walnuts. In absolute terms the walnuts contained the most Omega 3, by a huge margin. Additionally they had the best ratio of omega 3:6. I assume these two facts are why they are always the ones talked about in terms of omega 3's. Now that have asked the question I am going to do more research and a long post on the subject. Thanks for getting me started. I love a good research project. ;)

    Another one of the reasons I like having walnuts in our diet is for the ellagic acid which is an antioxidant and known cancer fighter.

    I have looked at flax, chia and hemp seeds in the past. All three contain both omega 3 and 6 from what I remember. I will add those into my research and look at them all together in one post.


  9. Alicia, thanks for the follow up. After a bit more research, I realize that English walnuts are great for omega 3, while black walnuts are not. The ratio of omega 3 to omega 6 for english walnuts is around 1:4, which is better than every other nut I've heard of. They are still very high in omega 6, though. Personally, chia is my favorite source of omega 3. The ratio is around 3:1.

  10. Matt,

    I agree from what I looked at yesterday walnuts had the best ratio of omega 3:6. I have seen many different suggested optimum levels of omega 3:6 anywere from 1:1 to 1:4. If I remember correctly flaxseed oil is 2:1, in case you are interested. However, I am not fond of the taste so we don't use it much. I tend to stick to eating a few raw seeds and nuts each day.

    Hemp seeds contain omega 3 and taste great if you haven't tried those yet. We love a few sprinkled on our salad.



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