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Diabetes Developments - A blog on latest developments in diabetes by David Mendosa

Omega 3-6 Balance Food Score

July 5th, 2012 · 3 Comments

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Most of us know that omega-3 is good for us. Some of us are aware that more than just a tiny bit of omega-6 isn’t. But hardly anyone can tell how to get the right amounts.

Now, we finally have a tool that makes it much easier for us to get our omega-3 and omega-6 in balance. This tool is the Omega 3-6 Balance Food Score. This score summarizes into a single value the balance among all the omega-3 and omega-6 essential fatty acids for 5,108 foods.

Bill Lands and Etienne Lamoreaux started with the 13,200 foods in theUSDA Nutrient Database. This data is the gold standard of nutrition information. Then, they deleted redundant servings and foods that we seldom eat, like brains and raw meat to get down to a more manageable number of foods.

Dr. Bill Lands is the leading expert on omega-3 and omega-6. Until he retired in 2002 Dr. Lands was a senior scientific advisor at the U.S. National Institutes of Health. Etienne Lamoreaux is a computer specialist there.

They just released their new tool in a research report, “Using 3-6 differences in essential fatty acids rather than 3/6 ratios gives useful food balance scores,” in the journal Nutrition & Metabolism. The full-text of their report is free online as a provisional PDF.

The tool shows those foods with positive scores that increase the percent of omega-3 in our bodies and the foods with negative scores that increase our percent of omega-6.

With this tool we can look at the scores of the USDA food groups and of individual foods. Either way, we can learn a lot.

Of the 24 food groups, only one has a positive score. Fish & Seafoods, comprising 151 foods, scored +30. I knew that fish was high in omega-3 but had no idea how lonely its outpost of health is. I can’t think of anything that ever pointed out to me more strongly how important it is for us to regularly eat fish and seafood.


Salmon is Best for Omega-3

No second best food group exists — all the others have a negative score. Closest to Fish & Seafoods are two groups that tie with a score of -1, Fruit & Fruit Juices and Beverages.

The worst food group? Fats & Oils score -24. That was no surprise to me, because I know that soybean oil, followed by corn oil, canola oil, and cottonseed oil make up 96 percent of the vegetable oil sold in this country and that they are almost entirely omega-6.

I never touch the stuff. Most of the vegetable oil that I use is either extra virgin olive oil or extra virgin coconut oil, both of which have among the best scores in the group.

But I was unpleasantly surprised to learn what the second worst food group is. Nuts & Seeds are almost as bad as Fats & Oils with a score of -18.

We still have to remember that the absolute amount of omega-6 fatty acids in the individual foods that we eat is more important that the ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 or even this new score. Certainly, almost all Americans need to cut way back on the amount of omega-6 we eat. But we don’t have to stop eating otherwise healthful foods that are high in omega-6. A few nuts and seeds won’t throw out body out of whack.

We do have to eliminate as much as possible those foods that are sky-high in omega-6 that don’t give us much in return. The first to go need to be the most common vegetable oils.

Bill Lands and Etienne Lamoreaux have not only calculated the scores for the USDA Food Groups but have also given us tables that show the best and the worst individual foods.

Eat the Three” ranks the foods with a positive score. It starts with salmon fish oil, +263, and descends down to raw rutabaga, +1.

Nix the Six” shows that safflower oil is worst with a score of -84. Second worst is grapeseed oil at -79, which might surprise those people who have written me about using it. Did you know that some of the most negative foods are mayonnaise, microwave popcorn, and peanut butter?

All of this and much more is available on your computer. But it’s also available on your iPad or iPhone, as they explain in detail at “Omega 3-6 Balance Score and Volumetric Score.”

Nutrition is still largely guesswork, an art rather than a science. But for omega-3 and omega-6 we now have a great new tool to help us balance what we eat much more precisely.

This is a mirror of one of my articles that Health Central published. You can navigate to that site to find my most recent articles.

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3 responses so far ↓

  • 1 fredt // Jul 5, 2012 at 2:14 pm

    canola oil, 16.7% O6, 7.8% O3, so what is the issue?. Canola Oils is made in grades.
    Cold extracted is the only human consumption grade in Canada.
    The other stuff is for industrial use only, but is often resold and finds its way into food, as it is cheaper.

  • 2 jake3_14 // Jul 22, 2012 at 1:42 pm

    The issue is the absolute amount of O-6 and O-3 fats the average person needs for optimum health. There are opposing points of views, of course. Dr. Alex Richardson of Food and Behavior Research asserts that only 2–3% of our calories should come from O-6 fats. Dr. Bill Harris, on the other hands, presents some seemingly credible evidence to challenge that position (see his LecturePad presentation at http://tinyurl.com/boynq39).

  • 3 Bo // Mar 21, 2013 at 5:35 am

    Your canola oil sees to bee of bad quality.In Sweden the ratio is 2-2.5 and I use it everyday.The same with your walnuts and flaxseeds. I consider them all to bee healthy.I also eat a lot of Mackerel,cod roe and swedish caviar and refuse to eat shellfish and fish with bones and skin.Soja flour seems to have a fair ratio.I do consider eggs OK in resonable amounts like 1 a day.All milk products I think are OK, but butter, the fattest cheese,and fat cream I use very little.Nobody seems to consider E vitamin.I have read E vitamin protects omega 6 fatty acids from oxidation.AA seems to be worse than LA since it promotes inflamation.All kind of birds seem to have high omega 6/3 ratios and also a lot of meat.I also trust scandinavian nutritonists much more since they found out about omega 3,It was a danish doctor that made me aware of deficiencies of vitamines and minerals and how this is connected to bad health.It was swedish researchers that found out about acrylic amides.It was the movement called frisksportarrörelsen that introduced a lot of healthy food in the 30:s.What the american nutritionists seems to be most interested in is making big box intruducing a lot of diets like Paleo,LCHF, and other extreme diets.I am a pescetarian but I also have a great sympathy with ovolactovegetarians but I do not beleave in extremes like meateating and veganism.

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