Omega 3, Brain Health, and Society

Below is a guest post on the importance of Omega 3/6 for brain function in a post peak world from Michel Petit, MD, (awashinoil on TheOilDrum). Dr. Petit is a General Physician, has been Peak Oil aware since 1996 (Scientific American Campbell and Laherrere), with special interests in environmental medicine, human evolution, nutrition, brain health, and the biology of aging. Like myself, Michel believes that our environment and our nutrition are very important if we want a healthy population.


Our distant paleolithic ancestors ate an omnivorous diet composed of wild plants, animal meat and fishes. About 10,000 years ago, domesticated animal meat, milk, eggs and cereals grains were gradually introduced in the human diet. During the 19th century, refined sugars, refined grains and hydrogenated vegetable fats became part of the human diet. Vegetable oils, high-fructose corn syrup and processed food became very popular in the 20th century. All these recent changes have altered our genetically determined biology. To function optimally, our body and especially our brain need to respect our evolutionary dietary history.

The fatty acids composition of modern diet plays an important role in brain function, and thus behavior. Modern diets have created a great imbalance between two important fatty acids nutrients. Omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids are essential nutrients to human health and cannot be manufactured by the body itself. We must get them from food, the best source of omega 3 being fish while the main source of omega 6 being vegetable oils. Our distant ancestors ate a diet with a balanced ratio of omega 6 /omega 3 fatty acids of 1:1. The human brain evolved for hundreds of thousands of years fed with balanced portions of game meat, fish, fruits, vegetables and roots.

The sharp rise in processed food made from vegetable oils has increased the omega 6/omega 3 ratio to at least 15 in modern society. We know this ratio is far too high for optimal brain functioning.

There is no consensus about the ideal omega6/omega 3 ratio but most experts agree it must be below 4:1. Today’s discussion is limited to the impacts of essential fatty acids on brain and behavior. If you want to learn more about these essential nutrients, their biological activities and their other effects on health, go to this link. If you don’t have enough time to read that text, watch two short videos entitled: Introduction and Brain and Eye on this web site.

Omega 3 fatty acids are very important for normal brain function and psychological health. Dietary deficiency of omega 3 fatty acids is very common and has been associated with increased risk of attention-deficit disorder, dyslexia, dementia, depression, behavioral problems, impaired learning, impulsive and aggressive behavior. A diet too rich in omega 6 fatty acids is almost always associated with similar problems. The higher your omega6/omega 3 ratio, the more likely your brain will not function at its full potential. Correcting and optimizing intakes of omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids are potential opportunities to prevent, correct or lessen the severity of these problems. Optimizing omega 3/omega 6 fatty acids ratio could contribute to these desirable objectives. This means eating enough omega 3 fatty acids while limiting the intake of omega 6 fatty acids.

One good way to optimize this ratio is to follow the Mediterranean Diet - I like this Food Pyramid because it provides a good omega6/3 ratio.

Mediterranean Pyramid

The Mediterranean Diet provides all the vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals your body needs. Only Vitamin D supplementation is sometimes required depending of the color of your skin (darker skinned people need more Vitamin D) or your sun exposure (you may need Vitamin D if you never go outside, live in northern climates, or are addicted to TheOilDrum). Your physician will tell you how much Vitamin D you may need. (Living in Canada and working inside a building, I take 1000 I.U of Vitamin D on a daily basis). You should also know that fish is an excellent dietary source of Vitamin D.

Now that we know that omega 3 fatty acids are essential for optimal brain function, it is time to ask the following ecological/resource question:

Are there enough fish in the sea to provide every human brain living on this planet with adequate Omega 3?

Deep sea fishing has peaked during the last 10 years, while population has not. Overfishing is well explained by Dr Daniel Pauly in this video link. Growing acidity of oceans is also killing corals and planktons which is gradually destroying the marine habitat. To learn more about ocean acidification, take the time to watch this 56 minute video.

Oceans, rivers and lakes are also becoming more polluted with fertilizers, chemical pollutants and plastics. As an expected consequence:

*The list of endangered fish species is growing.
*Dead zones in oceans are growing.
*Fish are smaller.
*Smaller fish produce fewer eggs.
*Jellyfish are taking over.
*Freshwater fish are generally too polluted for human consumption.
*Aquaculture is growing fast but the quality of these fish varies widely.
*Farm-fishes are sometimes located in polluted coastal waters.
*Antibiotics, pesticides and fungicides are widely used in fish farming.
*Farmed fish contains less omega 3 than wild fish.
*Transgenic fish can have a higher tolerance to toxins and accumulate more toxins that ultimately end up in consumers.

The logical next question is:

How can we secure the future supply of omega 3 for a growing human population approaching 7 billion?

We do know that marine ecosystems may recover under appropriate management. The list of Omega 3 fortified-food is growing. Could aquaponics become the equivalent of home fish-farming? Algae based DHA is expensive but also could be a reliable replacement. Jellyfish on the menu ?


We simply have no choice. Marine habitats should be preserved because once they are destroyed, they take a long time to recover or may never recover. Wild fish remains the best source of omega 3 fatty acids. (and, it is much tastier than jellyfish). We should do everything to preserve fish in our oceans, our lakes and our rivers. If for no other reason than we need healthy ocean fisheries to properly feed more than 6 billion human brains. There is no reason to let a nutritional deficiency ruin the life and potential of the masses. A world with enough fish for everyone could become a much better place. Imagine what could be the positive impacts if everybody had a better attention span, an improved mood and decreased impulsivity. Perhaps the world would be better prepared to find long term solutions to today’s and tomorrow’s economic and environmental problems. Collective discount rates would certainly improve for the best.

For a better world,

Michel Petit, MD

Do you have a recommended ratio for EPA to DHA?

Regarding Vitamin D, I was taking 2,500 units of D3 per day, and my Vitamin D level was only 37 ng/mL (25-Hydroxy test), which is above the minimum, but well below the 50-70 optimum level. The Vitamin D Council website, run by Dr. John Cannell, recommends 5,000 units per day until you get your blood level up to the 50-70 range. Scientific American recently had an article on Vitamin D Deficiency & Autism, which is a theory that Dr. Cannell has been propounding for quite a while. I thought that the Vitamin D dosages in the pregnancy study were interesting.
April 24, 2009
What If Vitamin D Deficiency Is a Cause of Autism?
A few researchers are turning their attention to the sunshine vitamin as a culprit, prompted by the experience of immigrants that have moved from their equatorial country to two northern latitude locations

And there is other evidence for a vitamin D link: Last November, Cornell University researchers published a study in Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine showing that children in rainy (and therefore more overcast) counties of Oregon, Washington and California were two times more likely to be diagnosed with autism than their counterparts in drier parts of the state. "Our research is sufficiently suggestive of an environmental trigger for autism associated with precipitation, of which vitamin D deficiency is one possibility," says study co-author Michael Waldman, a professor of management and economics at Cornell's Johnson Graduate School of Management. "Further research focused on vitamin D deficiency is clearly warranted." His research on environmental links to autism are ongoing; he plans to publish in the coming months but will not disclose any of his studies until they are accepted by a journal.

Gene Stubbs, an associate professor emeritus of psychiatry and pediatrics at Oregon Health & Science University, says the preliminary research is already intriguing. "We don't have proof, but I am certainly leaning in the direction that this hypothesis could be correct for a proportion of kids," says Stubbs, who has been studying autism for 30 years. He is launching a pilot study of 150 pregnant women who have at least one child diagnosed with the disorder. The women will receive 5,000 IUs of vitamin D3 during gestation and 7,000 IUs during lactation. "If we find that we are able to reduce the recurrence rate of autism within families substantially enough, others will want to study this in larger groups with larger controls."

BTW, have you had your blood level checked with the 25-Hydoxy test, while taking only 1,000 units? My doc just checked her level and it was only 13, here in Texas. She started taking 50,000 units once a week, and she was only up to 25. She is now taking 50,000 units twice a week, until she gets her level up.

Another fish oil wesbsite:

The Vitamin D Council website:

Short Vitamin D Council Video:

Sorry for being offtopic, but I have a question to you, WT. I'm sure you remember my graphs regarding oil exporters and my modelling oil production posted last year, as we agreed on everything (basically). However, I'd like to know where to get new data from as far as export numbers are concerned. Is there an e-mail address I could possibly reach you at? Thx. (I'd be more than glad to see you in Denver this October. I'm travelling all the way from Hungary, Europe.)

Here is the EIA website with a good deal of info. Click on Select a country:

Email: westexas at

I am tentatively planning on going to Denver, but not 100% sure yet; it's shaping up to be a busy last half of the year.

I did not had my blood level checked for Vitamin D.
When I don't work,I spend a lot of time outside gardening.
My skin manufacture a few thousand additional units daily.
During the winter, I take 2000 units per day.
But I will have my Vitamin D checked before November.
I am exposed to infected patients almost every day and I never catch anything.
1000-2000 units is a safe but possibly too low recommendation.

I predict that you may be surprised at how low your Vitamin D level is (on the 25-Hydroxy test). My doc has started testing most of her patients (here in Texas) and about 90% of them are deficient, using just the low level of 32 ng/mL as a threshold. My understanding is that the recommended range is 32 to 99, with 50-70 considered optimal.

I think that the medical community ought to implement a new scale--from zero at 32 ng/mL to 100 at about 62 ng/mL. So my measurement of 37 ng/mL would be 17 on a desired scale of 100 (5/30 X 100), i.e., for optimal health you want to be around 62 ng/mL.

Three reasons for choosing 62 ng/mL: (1) It's roughly halfway between the recommended minimum and maximum; (2) It's just over the halfway point for the optimum range and (3) Some studies show that the maximum Vitamin D blood level in most people exposed to hours of direct sunlight per day is in the mid to high 60's range.

Having an aversion to going to the doctor's and hospitals and never being ill, I haven't had my blood tested but think i will since i have known for some time that Vitamin D is important.

Older people are probably more at risk of Vitamin D deficiency because as we age our bodies absorb nutrients less easily including our skin's ability to convert Vitamin D to it's active form decreases.

Daily i take a multivitamin and mineral supplement, probiotic with 5 billion 'friendly' live bacteria (helps with absorption of nutrients and protects against infections), co-enzyme Q10 (aka ubiquinone).

I had the same experience as Westexas with Vitamin D.

I strongly recommend blood level testing to anyone who'll listen.

The diet pyramid pic is too small for me to see, so here's a better one.

Click on his link to see the bigger Mediterranean Diet Pyramid:

I think your little Pyramid here kinda sucks. Where is the section for Gin?

No Gin? Future life will not be worth living without good Gin. A Southern style serving I am fond of...

Take large tall water glass....fill with crushed ice....add two large tablespoons of white sugar...squeeze in one whole lime...add two tablespoons quinine water...add Bombay Safire to the top...

Yum Yum.

I can see only the left side of the pyramid. How can I broaden it, which means: how can I get rid of the right (and left) empty side of the screen ?

I am skeptical of a pyramid that puts high glycemic load foods as the things to eat most frequently. Grains are not better than fruits and vegetables. The opposite is true in fact. Also the argument for carbo over oil as a calorie source is questionable as well.

Did you look the Pyramid posted by Mamba or the Mediterranean Pyramid.

Chronic vitamin D3 treatment protects against neurotoxicity by glutamate in association with upregulation of vitamin D receptor mRNA expression in cultured rat cortical neurons

Glutamate disregulation is the key to these disorders. We are eating way too much of it.

See my blog for more info:

Great subject and very timely. Over at the Latoc swine flu discussion they are really pushing D3 among other things to fight the flu.

I am raising a grandson who is on the autism spectrum. I have been trying to raise his levels of D3, magnesium and Omega 3 among other things. It is very hard to get the right combination of supplements and diet. Many people swear that they have cured their child's autism with diet, supplements and other procedures such as chelation of toxic metals. Anyone interested should google Defeat Autism Now for the complete protocol.

For a contrarian view of proper blood vitamin D levels see anthropologist Peter Frost's posts on the subject here, here, here, and here. Make note of the levels of vitamin D found in some people who spend a lot of time outside. From the 4th post:

How can vitamin-D deficiency exist despite lengthy sun exposure? This apparent paradox was raised in my last post. The medical community now recommends bloodstream vitamin D levels of at least 75-150 nmol/L, yet these levels are not reached by many tanned, outdoorsy people.

In a study from Hawaii, vitamin D status was assessed in 93 healthy young adults who were visibly tanned and averaged 22.4 hours per week of unprotected sun exposure, with 40% reporting no use of sunscreen. Yet their mean vitamin D level was 79 nmol/L and 51% had levels below the recommended minimum of 75 nmol/L (Binkley et al., 2007).

These results are consistent with those of a study from Nebraska. The subjects were thirty healthy men who had just completed a summer of outdoor activity, e.g., landscaping, construction, farming, and recreation. One subject used sunscreen regularly and sixteen others sometimes or rarely. Their mean vitamin D level was initially 122 nmol/L. By late winter, it had fallen to 74 nmol/L (Barger-Lux & Heaney, 2002).

A study from south India found levels below 50 nmol/L in 44% of the men and 70% of the women. The subjects are described as “agricultural workers starting their day at 0800 and working outdoors until 1700 with their face, chest, back, legs, arms, and forearms exposed to sunlight.” (Harinarayan et al., 2007).

So what blood level of vitamin D to aim for?

Yes, broadly indeed I have 6 months supply of canned oily fish.
Relatively low omega content, good quality protein though.
As a scientist I am slightly concerned about claims that anything about our diet is natural over any time period.
Health problems caused by our diet are evolutionarily trivial when considering the billions made possible by our 'inadequate' diet.

Thank you for discussing the sad state of the world's oceans and fisheries. You'll find more grim news on the subject here.

Yes B808. Seems like we have reached 'Peak Nutrition' as well. I am planning to grow freshwater fish in a pond as naturally as possible.

Cod are doomed to disappear from the North Sea because of climate change and not just as a result of over-fishing, researchers have discovered.

In the past 40 years the average temperature of the North Sea has increased by 1C with catastrophic effects on its delicate eco-systems.

Species of plankton, on which cod larvae feed, have moved away in search of cooler waters. The decline in cod stocks has led to an explosion in the populations of crabs and jellyfish, on which the adult fish feed. The shortage of predators at the top of the food chain has had a knock-on effect on flat fish, such as plaice and sole, whose offspring are eaten by crabs.

The cumulative consequences of warming for the North Sea have been spelt out in detail in the study published yesterday in the Proceedings of the Royal Society Biological Sciences journal.

We might want to thinking about getting our omega3's from smaller fish, such as sardines and anchovies, or maybe mackerel.
Salmon is obviously a great source, along with halibut, but theses are top predators, and we are losing energy along the way by targeting them.
I'm a former commercial fisherman, that troll caught tuna, mahi, etc. for the Japanese market while living in Micronesia, so I'm as guilty as anyone.
The aquaculture question is another subject, one that I have opinions on that many of you may not appreciate.

Then too, there are plant sources of Omega-3. Flax come to mind.

Flax and Cannabis do provide a source for omega 3's, but are one step away, and need to be converted.

Smoked salmon
New research out of Spain suggests that THC -- the active ingredient in marijuana -- appears to prompt the death of brain cancer cells.

WASHINGTON - Good news for aging hippies: smoking pot may stave off Alzheimer’s disease.
Smokey da Rat

My understanding, and Dr. Petit can correct if wrong, is in flax seed form, the human brain processes flax seed into DHA at 2% efficiency, while chickens eating flax seed turn it with 40% efficiency into DHA in their eggs. We feed our chickens flax seed, and eat the eggs. IOW eating flax on your cereal etc, while healthy, doesnt actually assimilate the Omega 3 benefits as advertised (yet another gross vs net comparison)

Omega 3 fortified eggs are produced by feeding chicken with flaxseed.
This modified diet change the fat content in the yolk of the eggs to contain more DHA omega 3 and less omega 6 fatty acids.

I feed my chickens canola & camelina seeds (which I get free from where I work). Is this as effective in changing the fatty acid composition of yolk lipids as feeding flaxseed?

Guess I have to answer my own question:;...

Effect of feeding full fat flax and canola seeds to laying hens on the fatty acids composition of eggs, embryos, and newly hatched chicks; Cherian, G. (University of Alberta, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada); Sim, J.S. (Apr 1991)

Single Comb White Leghorn laying hens were fed diets containing 8 and 16% ground flax seed or 16% ground canola seed and were compared with birds fed a wheat and soybean control diet. Levels of omega-3 fatty acids in the egg yolk were monitored, and fertilized eggs were incubated after a plateau of omega-3 fatty acid level was reached. Fatty acid analyses were conducted on brain tissues of embryos at 15, 17, and 19 days of incubation and on newly hatched chicks. Fatty acid composition of plasma of the chicks was also determined. As compared with the controls, the omega-3 fatty acid content of eggs from hens fed flax and canola seed increased significantly (P.05), and the brain tissue of embryos and chicks contained significantly (P.05) more omega-3 fatty acids, predominantly docosahexaenoic acid (C22:6 omega-3). The plasma of the chicks from hens fed flax seed contained significantly (P.05) more omega-3 fatty acids than those fed the control diet. The arachidonic acid (C20:4 omega-6) content in the egg yolk and chick plasma lipids from the flax fed laying hens were significantly reduced. The present study demonstrates that the omega-3 fatty acid content of eggs, embryos, and chicks can be enriched by feeding oil seeds to laying hens.

Most of my hens are white leghorns altho I also have a few barred rocks.

Good info. I have wondered what I can supplement the feed of my chickens to match the Omega-3 eggs stores carry. I wonder if there is a cheap source of flax meal. It's fairly pricey when I see it in health food stores.

My ladies are mainly Barred Rocks, with a few Golden Laced Wyandot's and a couple of Americana mongrels for some blue eggs. Right now we are in the midst of a grass hopper plague which really supplements the hen diets! Nice speckled eggs too when they eat lots of insects. Chicken rugby where they fight over the 'hoppers is pretty funny.

Flax seed or flax meal would seem to be the superior choice. I get canola & camelina for free because they do variety trials on these crops where I work and I get some of the excess. I don't grind these small seeds, however, unlike was done in the study I cited. Wish they grew flax here. There is a small chia trial being conducted this year and maybe I can score some seed for the girls.

Last night I was watering & my turkey hens were following me around. (The hen chickens are confined in a mobile cage or "tractor" because they are hard to catch but the turkeys roam free.) They were eating grasshoppers or so I thought. Upon closer inspection I noticed that they were eating preying mantises. I tried to explain that preying mantises are beneficial and that they shouldn't eat them but those turkeys never listen to me.

We might want to thinking about getting our omega3's from smaller fish, such as sardines and anchovies, or maybe mackerel.

Ecologically, it's insane to target top predators; it's like raising tigers for burger. And of course, the top predators have the highest level of bioaccumulating schmutz in them.

However, DHA is also a bioaccumulant, I don't think fish make any, they get get it through the food chain ultimately from algal sources.

While algal biodiesel seems like it won't make the cut, algal DHA oughta scale up fine if necessary. I'm intrigued about feeding flax to chickens, first I'd heard that. Of course, scaling down the human population to match a sustainable fish catch is probably optimal for the long term.

I find DHA helps arrhythmias, controls triglyceride levels, and a slew of other things. Makes me wonder about the old aquatic ape theory popularized by Elaine Morgan. The human body seems to really want DHA.

they get get it through the food chain ultimately from algal sources.

It works that way for cows (see studies on grass fed VS non grass fed cows Omega 3/6 ratios) and I just got schooled in this very thread it's that way for chicken eggs.

The aquaculture question is another subject, one that I have opinions on that many of you may not appreciate.

Curious what you think of this process?

By coincidence I met a marine biologist from the University Of Miami last weekend who is involved with research on raising these fish for this organization. I also sent them an email a while back asking if they were doing anything along the lines of farming insects as a protein supplement for the feed. I got a response that they were looking at raising worms but not insects at present.

Anyways I think that whether we like the idea or not somebody somewhere will be doing things like this.

Vitamin C supplementation is also important-very few get enough from food.

For easons why this is so, one can take a look at the book The Healing Factor: Vitamin C Against Disease published in 1972 written by biochemist, Irwin Stone and reproduced on-line with permission. The essential thrust of his argument can basically be summed up in the following quote:

Now back to ascorbic acid. In mammals, ascorbic acid is produced in the liver from blood glucose by the stepwise reactions shown in Figure 3. Each step, except the last, is controlled by a specific enzyme. In the last step, the 2-keto-L-gulonolactone, once formed, is automatically converted into ascorbic acid. No enzyme is required. On the right side of the diagram, the step of transforming L-gulonolactone into 2-keto-L-gulonolactone is catalyzed by the enzyme L-gulonolactone oxidase. This is the critical enzyme for humans who, because they carry a defective gene, cannot produce an active enzyme. This is the gene that mutated in a primate ancestor of ours millions of years ago. It is this step that is blocked in man and prevents him from producing large amounts of ascorbic acid from glucose in the liver.

Here we have the classic conditions for a genetic, missing-enzyme disease, and yet for years these simple facts have been ignored and scurvy has continued to be regarded as avitaminosis. In 1966, this author published the paper "On the Genetic Etiology of Scurvy," in which the history and pertinent facts were reviewed and it was pointed out that in scurvy we were dealing with a genetic, liver-enzyme disease and not simply a dietary disturbance. Since it is the prerogative of the discoverer to name a new disease, the author called it "hypoascorbemia" because low levels of ascorbic acid in the blood are characteristic of this disease.

This genetic approach now provides a natural rationale for the use of large amounts of ascorbic acid which served so well in the survival of the mammals in the course of evolution. Its implications for health and well-being are vast because it furnishes the basis for the new unexplored fields of preventive medicine and therapeutics (megascorbic prophylaxis and megascorbic therapy). It is hoped that the publication of these new ways of using ascorbic acid will stimulate the flood of research similar to that which occurred when ascorbic acid was discovered in the early 1930s. Let us see how long it will take to break down the "vitamin-barriers" of current orthodox medical dogma.

It seems quite amazing that the medical industry has not followed up on this idea until one realizes that there are no huge profits to be made from vitamin C. However there is a small cadre of doctors that believe that good nutrition and strategic supplementation with key vitamins/nutrients is the best route to better health. I think Dr. Petit can be safely counted among that number.

Alan from the islands

I-V Vitamin C as potential cancer therapy:

Winter Sorrel which is found almost all over the USA, mostly considered a Weed in Lawns, is high in Vitamin C. It can be cultivated.

Purslane has Omega-3 in it, also a Weed found over much of the Country, and can be cultivated.

Like my info states, Edible Yards is not just a fad but something that has been around as long as we have been around. We have plants out there that taken in a round robin diet along with meats, dairy, eggs. I would if you could add in Camellia sinensis (Tea) to your diet as well as you can, it adds in some benifits, that seem to only be available to the species.

Trade in the coming years in plants and foods not found in your region will go back to the kind of traditions of the era before Fossil Fuel use.

Another Seed is the Chia (Salvia hispanica) I got a good deal on them from Nutsonline, which sells them by the pound. The easiest way to consume them is to mix them with juice or water, or ground and added to baked goods.

If fish sources are harder to find there are other ways to get what you need from plants.

I just wish I lived where I could cultivate Olives. Oh well, have to go buy a few trees in a grove somewhere as a way to invest in the future.

Charles E. Owens Jr.

I just wish I lived where I could cultivate Olives.

Hazelnut bushes instead.

The oil from the nuts is close to olives.

However there is a small cadre of doctors that believe that good nutrition and strategic supplementation with key vitamins/nutrients is the best route to better health.

Alan, don't forget to mention exercise.
Healthy balanced food + exercise: 1 + 1 = 3
Mechanisms of healthy food and exercise are complementary for the body. Exercise boosts NO (nitrogen oxide) production.
For supplementation IMO there is place for vitamin C and fish-oil (if intake of fish is low or absent).

In a similar vein, check out Linus Pauling, Vitamin C, heart disease and arterial plaques. As I understand it, cholesterol is not the problem it is made out to be. The cholesterol binds to fissures in the vascular system by design. If the veins/arteries are kept pliable (c.f. collagen) then the cholesterol remains in the bloodstream. Vitamin C is essential in maintenance of blood vessel pliability with age. I've probably simplified this but you get the idea. The pharma/medical industry push cholesterol lowering drugs and invasive cardiac procedures of course as there is big money in that.

Grass fed animals are usually under the 4:1 ratio, a decent alternative if you have the land/zoning/money.

Back to your question "Are there enough fish in the sea to provide every human brain living on this planet with adequate Omega 3?"

The easy way to balance O6 and O3 is to consume less Omega 6!! The human body was not designed to handle a whole lot of it to begin with. Cut back Omega 6 to normal levels by eating grass fed meat, cooking in coconut oil, and consuming plenty of olive oil, avocados, and nuts. Do that and the need for omega 3 drops dramatically, such that small amount of fresh fish/fish oil will do. And you will feel better all over!

Olive oil is great for monosaturated fats, but has a 12:1 Omega-6 to Omega-3 ratio.

Canola oil = 2:1

Walnuts are about the only nuts that have a 4:1 ratio or better.
Filberts = 9:1
Pecans = 20:1
Peanuts = 500:1
Almonds = 2000:1

Avocado = 15:1

Plant a walnut tree, bec. walnuts are an excellent source if o-3.

Hi Will,

Except for canola that looks like a great list, but about olive oil ...

This from Wikipedia:" Another health benefit of olive oil seems to be its property to displace omega-6 fats, while not having any impact on omega-3 fats. This way, olive oil helps to build a more healthy balance between omega-6 fats and omega-3 fats.[citation needed]"

That needs citation but, what the hell, a little bit of risk is fine as long as I can continue to sing like Caruso ... and lie as well as Pinocchio (aka Geithner).

About canola oil, again from Wikipedia: "Genetically modified canola which is resistant to herbicide was first introduced to Canada in 1995. Today 80% of the acres sown are genetically modified canola.[27]"

Read the Genetically Modified section of the Wikipedia about Percy Schmeiser and his fight with Monsanto about their genetically modified stuff. Bit of a David and Goliath event. Another good reason to avoid canola IMO. I don't like the name change either, Rape seed does seem to have more of a devil may care, live life to the full, panache, than canola, don't you think?:}

Your quote without a citation doesn't provide us much to go on. I've made many, many edits on Wikipedia, and I could edit it right now to say that olive oil has a 1:1 ratio of Omega-3 to Omega-6.

I'm very familiar with Percy Schmeiser's case, which was covered extensively in "The Future of Food". Yes, GM-based Canola from MonSatan would be one reason to avoid the oil.

We currently use a number of Smartbalance products (disclaimer: no vested interest in the company) that blend a number of vegetable/nut oils to arrive at the optimum O3/O6 balances with monosaturated oils. I also take fish oil capsules, recognizing that fishery stocks need all the help we can muster.

From article :

There is no consensus about the ideal omega6/omega 3 ratio but most experts agree it must be below 4:1.

Same as you, same as you:) doesn't leave me much to go on, anyway there is also this:

Olive Oil contains the two essential fatty acids. There is currently debate about how much omega-3 versus omega-6 one should have in their diet. The two fatty acids compete for space in the cell membranes. Studies show that there are benefits and risks to too much of either. While more of the omega-3 alpha Linolenic acid can help prevent heart disease, studies have suggested it may increase prostate cancer and macular degeneration7. According to the Merck Manual, an authoritative medical text, essential fatty acids should make up 1-2% of the dietary calories for adults with a suggested ratio of 10:1 for omega-6:omega-3 fatty acids.

Maybe what we got is a situation of take jo pick of poisons ... or experts.

More stuff: Something else omega: Acorns. Which I find interesting because a couple of years ago I read this book ...

Oak: The frame of civilization by William Bryant Logan
W W Norton, New York, 2005

.... and then immediately ran out and collected a bunch, dried , ground and then in the bathtub (convenient) slowly ran water over them overnight through a filter (in this case tea bag paper which I have a roll of, but a fine woven cloth would likely serve about as well) then mixed with an oxo cube and made a not bad at all ersatz hamburger. The stuff is a great extender and will take on the taste of most anything. It looks like it's ratio is even better between 3 and 6 omega than grape seed oil.

That book makes the case that acorns were a prime primeval precocious primate provision.

You are pulling marketing material off of, which I don't see as an unbiased source. The article they link about prostate cancer only looks at high ALA levels, and does not even consider DHA or EPA. Furthermore, the study states;

Another shortcoming of the large Indian trial and the Lyon Diet Heart trial is that changes in the diet involved more than ALA intake alone (3,17). Moreover, the small Indian trial lacked power, and the number of cardiac events in this population was extremely high (30% in 1 y), making it difficult to extrapolate from this specific patient population to other populations. Thus, the above three trials did not have the ideal double-blind structure and had other limitations in design.

Yet, many other studies show that omega-3 actually lowers prostate cancer risks, such as this one;

US News | Health

"Eating a healthy diet that includes dark fish and other sources of long-chain omega-3 fatty acids may decrease risk of more advanced prostate cancer even if one has a cox-2 genetic predisposition to the disease," said lead researcher John S. Witte, a professor in the Institute for Human Genetics, Epidemiology & Biostatistics at the University of California, San Francisco.

Other studies include;

Aronson WJ, Glaspy JA, Reddy ST, Reese D, Heber D, Bagga D. Modulation of omega-3/omega-6 polyunsaturated ratios with dietary fish oils in men with prostate cancer. Urology. 2001;58(2):283-288.

Bureyko T, Hurdle H, Metcalfe JB, Clandinin MT, Mazurak VC. Reduced growth and integrin expression of prostate cells cultured with lycopene, vitamin E and fish oil in vitro. Br J Nutr. 2008 Aug 21:1-8.

Cohen JH, Kristal AR, Stanford JL. Fruit and vegetable intakes and prostate cancer risk. J Nat Can Inst. 2000;92(1):61-68.

Freeman VL, Meydani M, Yong S, Pyle J, Flanigan RC, Waters WB, Wojcik EM. Prostatic levels of fatty acids and the histopathology of localized prostate cancer. J Urol. 2000;164(6):2168-2172.

Newcomer LM, King IB, Wicklund KG, Stanford JL. The association of fatty acids with prostate cancer risk. Prostate. 2001;47(4):262-268.

Terry P, Lichtenstein P, Feychting M, Ahlbom A, Wolk A. Fatty fish consumption and risk of prostate cancer. Lancet. 2001;357(9270):1764-1766.

Olive is touting the Merck Manual because it is one source that is to their advantage. Would they tout others that didn't? Could you quote the page number and the edition of the Merck Manual you found the 10:1 O6/O3 ratio or are you relying on

Other Merck sources show a difference emphasis:

The Merck Manual of Health and Aging;

When possible, monosaturated and polyunsaturated fats should be substituted for saturated fats and trans fats, particulary omega-3 fats.

Merck EFSA submittal

In its dossiers, the German firm recommended mothers consume 200mg of DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) in the form of food supplements per day during and after pregnancy to confer the eye health and brain health benefits in the foetus and infant.

Yet, many other studies show that omega-3 actually lowers prostate cancer risks, such as this one;
"Eating a healthy diet that includes dark fish and other sources of long-chain omega-3 fatty acids may decrease risk of more advanced prostate cancer even if one has a cox-2 genetic predisposition to the disease,"

"May?" Hmmm, that sounds definitive! Of course, on the other hand, it also might mean that possibly the fish hadn't been eating eating olives? Anyone smell it's breath? I know when I eat olives in bed my wife is all complaints. Anyway I don't know if there is any value to all this ratio stuff aiding brain function, I have a really good ratio and, empirically speaking, I am sure you will agree that makes my point on that. Right?

Now one thing, you say:

I also take fish oil capsules, recognizing that fishery stocks need all the help we can muster.

I had always had the understanding at least in the the case of the cod that using it's oil was really really hard on their livers, so I'm nonplussed when you say that you are helping fishkind by eating fish oil capsules.

Another health benefit of olive oil seems to be its property to displace omega-6 fats, while not having any impact on omega-3 fats.

Ignatz, I found this strange also. Displace ?

I don't know where the "rape seed" name came from originally, but only a male could associate that name with a "devil may care, live life to the full, panache". IMO there is a very good reason for the name change.

Brazil nuts have a bad omega-3/omega-6 ratio but are an excellent source of selenium.

Grass fed is the way to go---
I have been eating cheese from grass fed cows, that is high in omega3's.
Of course, it is from New Zealand, which increases the carbon footprint.

Gras fed meat is more natural and has a lower omega6/3 ratio.

Good overview. I have always been nutrition conscious, and find the topic fascinating. How to keep the body in Formula 1 mode. Great to see the oil drum hosting areas of discussion like this to diversify the scope of the site. Looks like we have reached 'Peak Nutrition' as well. When I retreat upcountry in the not too distant future, one of the first things I am going to build is a fish pond.

Thank God!
I'm looking at that little jug of home-roasted cashews over there and starting to Hypochondrialize all these hives on my body.

But we do have pasture-raised beef and chicken.. and my Sis-in-law made Venison stew tonight.

Time for a new Blood and Hair Test..

Cashews = 100:1 Omega-6 to Omega-3

Are you sure about the carbon footprint? What I read was that because the long distance shipping is so efficient (on a per-ton basis) compared to trucking, that it actually came out much better than meat trucked half way across Europe (or America). Not to mention the relative carbon costs of range-fed versus feedlot.

You may be correct---

How does fish oil in capsules measure up compared to whole wild fish? I take 2400 mg a day. Says it's made from anchovy and sardines, guaranteed no mercury, PCBs, or dioxins. I also love smoked salmon but that is not always available.

Tentative dietary reference intake for EPA and DHA:

I supplement with fish oil, and have for years. I use Carlson as I find it the best tasting and it is free of heavy metals (or so they say). I feel that I notice a difference in mood and cognitive function, but that could very well be the placebo effect.

My dog has been supplementing with fish oil for about a year, and I find that she has much less dry, flaky skin.

If the fish get the EPA-DHA from algae, I don't see why we couldn't grow it ourselves on land. If the Omega3 were of the same quality, I would feel much better about doing this than using oil from unsustainably caught fish.

The question of plant vs. animal sources of omega-3's is a lot dicier than it appears and a strong case can be made for plant food sources. The whole issue of omega-3's and DHA has been greatly discussed by vegans. The best print source that I can find is Becoming Vegan by Davis and Melina, p. 61-68. They are both registered dietitians active in the American Dietetic Association and it seems to be a fairly straightforward "conservative" approach to vegetarian nutrition.

Flax seeds work quite well as a general source of omega-3 fatty acids. They are also quite inexpensive. A few dollars can buy you a bag of flax seeds that will last for months. You can grind them up in a coffee grinder and put a tablespoon or two on your cereal in the morning. The problem is the conversion of LNA (found in flax seed, walnuts, greens, soy, canola, hemp, etc.) to DHA and EPA, which can be quite slow (about 2-5% for DHA). According to Davis and Melina,

Most experts agree that adequate conversion can take place, providing sufficient LNA is consumed and factors that can depress conversion enzymes are minimized.

The reason that some vegans do so poorly in this area of nutrition is that they consume too many omega-6's and the omega-6's interfere with the conversion to DHA and EPA. This is part of the general relic from the 1970's that vegetable oils can do no wrong. Well, they can. Oils from corn, cottonseed, safflower, and sunflower are quite high in omega-6 fatty acids. Also, many vegans don't consume enough omega-3's from flax, walnuts, hemp, etc. Remove these problems and you've solved most of the problem of omega-3 nutrition for someone wanting to get their omega-3's from plant foods.

What about people who have elevated DHA needs or who still have DHA conversion problems? Fish get their omega-3's from algae, and there are now companies that sell DHA derived from algae. If you do a Google search on "vegan DHA," you can quickly find several companies that do this. The problem is that it's expensive. I suspect, though I cannot prove, that this is because the market for DHA is currently small and DHA can be derived from trash fish for which there is no other economical use.

So plant food sources can be problematic, but with animal food sources, you have a continual stream of problems you have to deal with as well. Grass-fed beef contributes significantly to global warming, and overgrazing is already rampant throughout much of the world. Fish has contamination from mercury and other nasty things, and this is a rapidly depleting resource, as Dr. Petit points out.

Since the fish get their DHA omega-3's from the algae, if you were going to scale up DHA's it would be seem to be easier to scale up algae than to scale up the fish that eat the algae. For most people without DHA conversion problems (having a good omega 6 to omega 3 ratio), flax seeds will work just fine most of the time. If we want to have a future of omega-3 health for a population of billions of humans, I'd suggest going in the direction of plant foods and public education.


It's even dicier than you suggest.

From this page on a website referenced in the post:

The omega-6:omega-3 concept originates primarily in the early rodent experiments where high levels of LA (omega-6) in the diet were found to partially suppress the conversion efficiency of dietary ALA to EPA plus DHA in the body.

OK, and in humans...

Subsequent human studies have indicated that lowering the LA(n-6):ALA(n-3) from higher levels (e.g., 27:1 down to 3:1) does allow for a somewhat moderately enhanced conversion of dietary ALA to EPA as revealed by moderately higher levels of EPA in blood samples taken from subjects given varying n-6:n-3 ratios and amounts of ALA. Thus, higher intakes of ALA and much lower ratios of LA: ALA is one strategy for moderately enhancing the conversion of ALA to EPA via the desaturation/elongation reactions

there is a moderate effect for EPA, but...

However, it is most interesting to note that numerous human studies which have lowered the n-6:n-3 ratio (as LA: ALA ) have not shown a significant rise in DHA with the lower ratios or even with higher intakes of ALA despite the moderate rise in EPA as mentioned previously.

not for DHA.

I'll concede your point on algae, but I'd rather eat salmon. My bad.

Thanks for these links and explanation, this is helpful.

Virginia Messina, another of the "conservative" (my label) vegan dietitians, said in 2006:

Vegetarians do have lower levels of DHA and EPA in their blood. We don’t know whether they are at a health disadvantage because of this. We also don’t know if this would change if more vegetarians paid attention to their intakes of ALA and LA. But research does suggest that ALA may not have the exact same effects in the body as the long chain omega-3 fats.

And just a few months ago . . .

Whether or not vegans need to supplement with the long-chain omega-3 fats (DHA) that are found in fish oils isn’t known since the research is conflicting. In the meantime, it might be a good idea for vegans to take around 200 micrograms per day of an algae-derived supplement.

I can't find anything off the bat from other vegan dietitians or doctors. Michael Greger had something about it on his 2008 DVD, which I don't have right now. All of this suggests that, well, we don't know.


Take another look at your pyramid, and you will see exactly where the bulk of the population gets into trouble: Sugar.

Astoundingly in that it took so long, the America Heart Association just last month finally announced sugar guidelines.

Interestingly, what we drink is as decisive as what we eat. The biggest excess intake of sugar comes from purchased soda and candy, and the average American gets over two and a half times the recommended daily allowence. Many people take in well above even that average.

Not mentioned in the statistics is sweet tea. The biggest rise in obesity over the last decade has occurred in what can be called "the tea belt". This is in the same area as the well known bible belt, where sweet tea using pure cane sugar is a staple.

This sugar and liquid intake has another effect: It displaces the desire for nutritious food. For years I lived on sweet tea, and never realized that the hunger for nutritious food was simply being pushed aside by the volume of sugar and liquid.

Recently I was essentially ordered off the sugar diet by my doctor. What to do? This would be a huge lifestyle change, fast, and I have a taste for the taste of sweet. Then I discovered the greatest secret: Natural sweetener from the stevia plant. My brand is Truvia.

Naturally my body began to rebalance. I was hungry for seafood, hungry for vegetables, fruits I had nver tried, and grains. My Omaga 3 level has gone up, my sugar and triglyceride level dropped, my blood pressure was holding down (not low, but mine never will be), and the biggest visable change was the weight: Over a period of 6 months my body weight dropped from a high of 175 to current 124 at this mornings weigh in, a 50 pound drop.

My other eating habit changes have assisted this: The increase in seafood consumption, the increase in whole grains (white flour is not as good once you have had something else), the increase in fruit and vegetables. But it was all made possible by opening up the space formerly occupied by sugar. There is now a space for real food.

Some partners and I are considering a book on this subject. The sugar industry has managed to make any other sweeteners than sugar or corn sweetener suspect, casting them as "artificial sweetener" and potentially dangerous.

Stevia based sweetener has been used in Japan and other nations since the 1970's with no ill effect reported. In fact, some trials have even shown stevia based sweetener to have a natural blood pressure reducing effect.

A multitude of diet plans have been attempted over the last half century, but until we confront the national addiction to sugar and corn sweeteners, other nutritional schemes have no real chance of success. It is like trying to push an elephant out of a room. Sugar should be the first issue to deal with before we attempt to build nutrition into a space that for many people is already filled.


Well done on the diet, Roger.

As far as 'dealing with the sugar', it cannot be forgotten that since food moved from being a necessity to an 'industry', the rules of the market have insisted on creating foods that are addiction-forming. Modern business is based on this, not unlike healthcare. Even holistic doctors have to work into this mold, and create 'subscription clients' who remain on a regular Maintenance plan, instead of learning how to eat and care for their bodies in a way that preempts this automatic outlay.

In regards to Wheat products, you might look into the issues around Phytic Acid, which is present in I believe all whole grains, including rice, and which should be neutralized by soaking overnight in raw yoghurt or whey as it had been done in preindustrial cultures (remember soaking oats overnight before making oatmeal?). Untreated, even whole grains can cost your body a lot of calcium as it works to process this acid. Sprouted Grains and Sourdoughs also resolve this issue. (and Calcium deficiencies are bad for circulatory health as well as bone and tooth.. and probably overall cell health)

While a bit controversial, I have found the arguments of the Weston Price foundation compelling as a guidepost for diet guidelines which would tend to agree with the experience you've already outlined. Dentist Weston Price in the 30's sought out traditional non-industrial cultures around the world who seemed to be free of many of the bone and tooth developmental problems that have been endemic in the modern world, and examined their diets for common threads that might be clues to this success that we moderns seem to have lost.

Characteristics of Traditional Diets
1# The diets of healthy primitive and nonindustrialized peoples contain no refined or denatured foods such as refined sugar or corn syrup; white flour; canned foods; pasteurized, homogenized, skim or low-fat milk; refined or hydrogenated vegetable oils; protein powders; artificial vitamins or toxic additives and colorings.

2# All traditional cultures consume some sort of animal protein and fat from fish and other seafood; water and land fowl; land animals; eggs; milk and milk products; reptiles; and insects.

3# Primitive diets contain at least four times the calcium and other minerals and TEN times the fat soluble vitamins from animal fats (vitamin A, vitamin D and the Price Factor--now believed to be vitamin K2) as the average American diet.

4# In all traditional cultures, some animal products are eaten raw...

...etc, etc

.. and despite recurring misrepresentations, the Weston Price community is not an 'All meat, all the time' philosophy, which they probably get tarred with since they do defend the healthiness and often the necessity of INCLUDING animal foods and fats in a good diet.


I too have been trying to reduce my sugar intake but, it's all over the place. Modern processed drinks and baked products tend to be laced with the stuff! I'm hoping that the world market price of sugar continues to rise so as to encourage lower consumption. Hopefully more sugar can be channeled into ethanol production as well.

Interestingly, on a recent trip to France, I found the pastries from the small bakeries in the town I stayed in, a lot less sweet than similar products in the UK, the US or my island home. I would be happy to have a lot less sugar in the products that I buy but, there is a huge industry focused on getting us to consume more and more. Big sugar?

Alan from the islands

Are you talking about "sugar" or "high fructose corn syrup sweetener"? Too often these are considered as equal and talked about as "sugar", which is far from correct.

The high fructose sweetener is an order of magnitude worse for the human body than real cane sugar.

I know of NO major commercial soft drinks that use real sugar for sweetening in the USA. All use the awful high fructose corn syrup sweeteners. In Europe they used to use real sugar - No idea what they use today. But I could drink lots of the sugar based soft drinks in Europe without any problems, but the sodas in the USA with the high fructose corn syrup sweeteners really play havoc with my system and I have not consumed soft drinks for many years now as a result.

There are no bread products in my grocery store in the USA midwest that use real sugar - All use high fructose corn syrup sweeteners.

Look at the list of ingredients in almost all the regular grocery store products and you will find high fructose corn syrup sweeteners (And usually hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated fats or oils - But will lie on the label and say it contains 0 grams of transfats).

It is real hard work to find foods that are both safe and good for you.

(And usually hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated fats or oils - But will lie on the label and say it contains 0 grams of transfats).

How is this lying? When unsaturated fats are hydrogenated (by bubbling hydrogen gas thru the liquid fat with Ni as a catalyst) double bonds are broken and a hydrogen atom is added to each carbon on either side of the former double bond. The C-C bond is no longer either cis- or trans-. If the process of artificial hydrogenation goes only so far as to produce "partially hydrogenated" fats or oils the remaining double bonds could very well all be in the cis- configuration (hydrogens on the same sides of the C=C bond) if they were all cis- in the unsaturated lipid to begin with. If the label says "0 grams of transfats" I would tend to believe it, since the manufacturer could get in trouble with the FDA if it weren't true.

Btw, both cis- & trans- unsaturated fatty acids occur in nature.

It's lying because they make the serving size small enough that there is 0.49 grams of trans fat per serving, then they say "Zero grams trans-fat", which they know most people read as "doesn't contain trans-fat" which is of course NOT the same thing. Then they show the guy in the commercial eating three serving sizes worth in one bite. Its not exactly lying, but it pretty much is.

Here's "Appendix H: Rounding the Values According to FDA Rounding Rules":

trans Fat >/= 5 g - express to nearest 1 g increment < .5 g Insignificant Amount

Looks like you are correct!

The label you want to look for is "Trans Fat Free" - those products do not contain trans fats.

And the answer is????

Bake your own Bread. Read a label. Don't buy the crap. Anyone that whines about processed food, just needs to look in the mirror for the answer to the problem.

No one is forced to drink a soda. Unless Cheny has a new form of torture he is not telling us about.

I know of NO major commercial soft drinks that use real sugar for sweetening in the USA.

This is a much larger problem in the US, due to US price controls on sugar that keep the price high, and a need to market surplus corn which makes HFCS cheap.

Hey hey Jon,

Blue Sky has a line called real sugar that uses sugar from sugar cane instead of corn syrup. It's still carbonated sugar water but it's cleaner than the alternatives.

The Dr. Pepper franchise around Waco Texas (Dublin actually, the first one) still uses cane sugar.


The Mediterranean Diet Pyramid shows refined sugar on top of the pyramid.
In other words,once in a while.
Take your sugar from fruits if possible.
The sugar in fruits comes with its natural slow release mechanism:fibers.

When I get time, I'm going to finish a post on the links between sugar and behavior - in particular the fact that sugar consumption increases our discount rates, which is exactly what we don't need when trying to think about long term problems.

Nate - That is an interesting way to put it. Bet we can guess a few other foods that would also increase our discount rates. Dr. Robert Sapolsky in his book "Why Zebra's Don't Get Ulcers" talks about the impacts of foods on Glucocorticoid levels and stress. I wouldn't be suprised if these increased our discount rate a bit too.

That big slice on the bottom of the pyramid is still the propaganda of big ag, and is suicidal for humans.
Quite embarrassing--

Trekker,You generally make a lot of sense but not when you say the "big slice at the bottom ..."

I have stayed out of this discussion because I don't know enough about micronutruents but I do read a good book written by respectable doctors/nutritionists once in a while and I have taken a course or two over the years touching upon the subject.

I'm not saying the pyramid can't be improved but it is basically sound and if you eat as it reccomends just about any doctor will tell you that you are eating ok.Of course you neeed to eat JUST ABOUT as much from the second layer-THE FRUITS VEGGIES LAYER- AS IT IS INTENDED TO BE READ-as you should eat from the first layer.

Apparently most people don't get this spatial relationship and perhaps the pyramid should have put both of these food groups on the bottom side by side-I get this directly from a phd rn who teaches nutrition.

You are way off base tonight.Big ag is not making the big bucks from flour and pasta and potatos but rather from processing down stream and adding tons of salt, sugar, fat,and convenience etc to junk foods.This is not to say that you shouldn't pay an extra fifty cents for 100 percent whole grain bread as opposed to wonder what this is "bread" of course,or that you should not eat very many french fries which are saturated with salt and dripping oil.

An excellent point !

I wonder how much high fat junk food does the same thing ?


PS: My own downfall is volume. My mother had a dietitian review my father's diet (often 8 or 9 different fruits & veggies/day, skim milk, some vegetable fats, 1 to 3 ounces of meat, say one sausage patty) and said that he was the only person she had seen that got fat off home grown tomatoes.

I am a milder case of same, although I lose weight when eating at home and gain eating out.

"There is no consensus about the ideal omega6/omega 3 ratio but most experts agree it must be below 4:1."
Udo Erasmus author of 'Fats that heal and Fats that kill' argued that we need 2 omega 3's to every omega 6. If he's right then we have our work cut out for us.

Grass fed ruminants (dairy and meat) not only decrease the amount of omega 6's
(grain) but are a source of omega 3's and according to Jo Robinson can have a 5 fold increase in the very beneficial conjugated linoleic acid or c.l.a. which is purported to help stave off diabetes and atherosclerosis.

Recently I heard about a simple fish farming system anyone can set up in a garage. It is the model developed for Heifer International, I think, and involves 4 connected 55-gallons drums. One of them has fish, the others can be put to other uses (such as fertilizer for vegies).

I see that as the only way to get enough fish omega-3. Another thought is to feed vegies rich in omega-3 to hens for example, which makes the eggs high omega-3. It turns out you need to eat 40 cups of kale or purslane each day to get your omega-3. Maybe a chicken could get this done.

Grass-fed meat is another option, but I believe we would need 6 times the land area to raise the beef we presently eat on pasture. Here in Colorado, milk production at one pasture-only farm fell 3 or 5 fold after they went to all grass. The milk is now higher in omega-3 than it used to be, and that's what I am serving my kids.

Not long ago, all fat was evil; now we are learning about subsets and getting a new understanding. I'm sure we will find out more about fatty acid subsets, and it will turn out, I imagine, that the more "natural" we can make our food, the better. Mutant corn-fed salmon, or cereal fortified with omega-3 will never be the way to go. Even fish oil, I worry about. Somehow the tide seems to be turning against supplements, with some of them being associated with more disease, not less.

You may be missing the point about fish. The only omega-3s in fish is from omega-3 in what the fish eat. Unless the feed is spiked with omega-3, farmed fish will have almost none.

Yes, same as chicken. Battery farm chickens have no omega-3 in their meat or eggs, whereas free-range chickens do. But they have to be true free-range with access to natural biodiversity, not factory farmed in an open field at thousands to the hectare and other permitted distortions of free-range.

IIRC farmed fish are also devoid of omega-3 as you say.

I think you are right, but my point was about raising fish yourself, then hopefully you would have a choice what they eat.

I don't know a whole lot about farmed fish, but if you do home-based aquaculture (with the four 55-gallon drums), wouldn't you be able to feed the fish something high in omega-3, such as flaxseed or purslane? Tilapia normally eat algae, can be raised on duckweed and worms, and there is commercial feed as well - which is where the problems come from.

The fact is, anything cheap should be suspicious. There's a store in San Francisco that sells fried tilapia for $2 per fish (enough to feed two adults). It's bad for you, surprise, surprise...

I get my shrimp and black drum from the Farmers & Fishers Market. Usually from a woman whose husband catches the black drum alive and keeps them in a holding pond till the afternoon before the market.

I have never checked the Omega-3/6 levels of black drum or shrimp. Is there a source by species ?



As a general rule, the colder the water, the higher the oil content of the fish (salmon and halibut being very high in oils and omega3's).
Mackerel, sardines, anchovies are very high, and generally live in cold waters.
I would not imagine Drum as having a high omega3 content, but I don't have the data.
Red Drum are sure good sport fish!

Yes, I am aware of this. And my black drum come from a brackish lake, or adjoining swamps, water temp today 70+F.

But they taste good :-) And a reasonable price (fresh filets 3/4 lb for $9, fresh shrimp $7 to $3/lb.)

Best Hopes for Local Seafood,


I have never checked the Omega-3/6 levels of black drum or shrimp. Is there a source by species?


A biotic oil !


I haven't been through the comments so there is a risk someone has pointed this out before:

1) There is a thing about the processing of Omega-6/Omega-3 in the body. Apparently large amounts of amega-6 prevent the intake of omega-3. Indeed vegatable oils (especially sunflower oils) contain lots of omega-6. Modern diet rules thinks of saturated fat as a poison and thus they are being replaced with products based on several oils. This greatly disturbs the omega-6/omega-3 ratio. This implies that increasing the amount of omega-3 is useless if you have a high omega-6 intake. Therefore, by simply eating more saturated fat you are restoring the balance.

2) Ha, those pesky mediterraneans and their diet! The funny thing is diets in the south of Europe vary quite a bit. While the people from the Provence love their fish, they sure love their porc too. I think this diet is an invention by someone who does not live in the mediterranean.

I love a good "Daube", which contains lots of meat and bacon, originally also containing porc skin.

See, that's exactly what I mean. The story is hopelessly complicated for reductionist analysis.

Let's eat something sustainable, how about that? It may turn out it's not the absolute best for health and longevity, but maybe we will have saved the planet in the meantime...

I'm reading No Impact Man and thinking about turning us into Really Low Impact Family.

Do we want a healthy population ?

This is contrary to the professional ethos of the author.

One surprise from modeling is that increased bicycling does not save as much oil and lower CO2 emissions as much as thought.

Why ?

People that bicycle to work live an extra 10 years (on average). Ten more years for the economy to burn oil & carbon on their behalf.

On a personal level, I will take an extra decade. On a social level ??


'This is contrary to the professional ethos of the author.'

I don't know how you meant this, Alan, but it sounds extremely crass. To suggest that Doctors WANT an unhealthy population.. it's an unhelpful and untrue thing to say. I'm the first to say we have an entrenched system that has left us with an intrinsically Unhealthy Healthcare Setup, but the above went too far, I think.


I meant the exact opposite.

We all, but especially physicians, want people to live long healthy lives.

I am still grappling with the results that improved behaviors (bicycling, walking) have minimal long term energy savings.

Why ?

Because people that exercise live longer and their indirect energy use (food to table, lights & heat, etc.) goes up as a result of longer lives.

Fortunately, the net energy effect is still slightly positive if one bikes to work. Otherwise this could be quite the conundrum.

Working things through,


I'm so sorry I misread that. I should have known better. I lost my Mom at a young 72 this week, after a mere 2weeks from the diagnosis.. so I'm both touchy as hell, and a bit wild-eyed about healthcare, cursing and defending it all at once.

I find that bicycle study to sound extremely dubious on the face of it.. besides which, in the spirit of PO, it's likely about the RATE, no?, .. more than the lifetime aggregate. It's pretty clear that cycling is the better course, and if they want to staple some convenient 'unintended consequence' onto it, I can't be bothered. I don't buy it. I would be shocked if a net accounting that really combined all the inputs and effects would come out this way.

But really, I just want my mommy..


Sorry to hear about your mom, Bob. I lost my mom 15 yrs ago when she was only 60. The world seems like a lonely place without your mom in it.

Thank you, DD.

We've definitely lost our original anchor, and now have to step up to the plate.

We are with you in our hearts.

I am extremely fortunate that mine is a very long lived family but the funerals have been coming faster and faster for the last few years.

Everybody has made it till thier late eighties-which I attribute to hard work,a diet rich in home grown fruits and vegetables,and the peace of mind and sense of purpose that comes from family and community.

A substantial portion of that sense of family and community simply must be attributed to the Baptist church.

You heard it from a Baptist born and bred subverted by that minion of the devil Charles Darwin.

My sympathies.

Hi Bob,

I'm so sorry to hear about your loss. What a shock it must be.

"...only one mother, the wide world over."

Deepest condolences.

Bob, sorry to hear about your mom, and DD - you put it so well... my mom is still around, taking care of business at 78, but my dad is bed-bound and fairly demented at this point - a huge sadness for all of us.

I've had quite a bit of opportunity to think about whether longevity makes sense from many points of view. I remember an article discussing whether it was in the best interest of the Canadian government to have people quit smoking. They would not only lose the tax income, but also have to pay out more in retirement benefits and health care. Similarly, I recently heard a devastating NPR report on the rate of alcoholism in Mongolia (22% of adult males!!) - and how the government gets a quarter of its revenue from alcohol sales.

On some level, it only makes sense to send people hiking and biking if they'll eat local produce for fuel. On the other hand, those modes of transportation/entertainment generate their own enthusiasm about saving the planet.

Reading No Impact Man and watching the climate change presentation at, I wonder whether the high omega-6 levels account for some of the apathy we see. It's also amazing to think how many separate "insults" we are seeing: toxins (including chemicals in the food itself), sugar (which raises addiction potential in rats), omega-6, television and computer games (you should see my kids after those!!), lack of social interaction, lack of family dinners, and a bunch more I'm missing.

To suggest that Doctors WANT an unhealthy population.

It may have been said tounge in cheek but a poster here on TOD who claimed to be a doctor of some type did make exactly that claim.

It appears that Wall Street wants an unhealthy population based on their desire to make even more money:

No doubt that dietary deficiencies combined with a mass of alien dietary additives has very poor outcome on the behavior of children which cascades through schools and out into society.

Feed too much refined sugar to my young children and they become hyperactive in about ten minutes. Feed them sweets with certain artificial colourings and they start bouncing off the walls.

This experiment is easily repeatable and shows consistent results, although I have not performed it double-blind. For safety reasons (and the cost of repairing the walls) I try to avoid sweets with artificial colours.

There was a Beeb programme a while back which did do a sort of double-blind test on this (as much as tv progs can ever do).

However, after trying to write down the details, I find I can't remember what happened. But the basis was that the parents took their children to a party and dropped them off. What the parents saw, before leaving, gave them a certain impression of the party food (sugar-loaded or "good"). However, that wasn't what the children actually got. However, the children were hyped up or not, by means of game playing or quieter pursuits.

The interpretation of the children's behaviour by the parents was affected by what they had seen at the beginning of the party.

In short, the sugar affect seemed to be some/mainly(?) interpretation rather than actual,


That may be so.. but still there have been proper studies conducted and the connection between food additives, colorings, and preservatives and child behaviour has been shown repeatedly.
(The link doesn't back this up specifically, but the book by this name and author does.. no time to find an approp. quote)

It's no coincidence that simultaneous with this health decline the perils we face from our food, our medicine and our health choices have become a drumbeat of alarming news reports. Here are a few representative examples.

A study from the science journal, Public Health, described in 2004 how the incidence of death from brain diseases, such as Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, and motor neurone disorders, was found to have tripled in nine Western countries, including the U.S., during the period 1974 to 1997. The most likely causes researchers identified were exposure to pesticides sprayed on crops, synthetic chemicals from the processed foods that we consume, and industrial chemicals used in almost every aspect of our modern lives.

I could write another piece about this.
It is impossible to explain in one paragraph.

I could write another piece about this.

Its wandering a bit from the core energy theme, but the fact is that with industrial agriculture and industrialised and globalised food industries that all the crap that ends up on the floor gets technologised into lunch time snacks.

I'm sure Nate would not mind receiving another short susinct piece on food and behavior.

Poor nutrition leads to steep discount rates.
In Nate Hagens words, it means we weight the present more than the future when making decisions.
A healthy brain is necessary to make good decisions and plan the future.

dietary deficiencies combined with a mass of alien dietary additives has very poor outcome on the behavior of children

ASCII and ye shall receive this old news in a new package.

Contrast this with the Central Alternative High School in Appleton, Wisconsin. The school serves troubled youth, but teachers, parents and administrators found a way to turn things around; and when they did, discipline problems dropped sharply. Their secret? Instead of the usual processed meals, the school cafeteria offers fresh, locally grown, low-fat, low-sugar alternatives. The healthier meals are delicious. The students love them. They perform better in class and don't get sick as often.

Doktor Petit, I think eggs were not introduced 10000 years ago into the human diet but that wild eggs have been part of the human diet ever.

Interesting article and comments, for which I thank you. I was grown up being foodwise, eating l a lot from my parents veggie garden, and I suppose I have an excellent diet. Caught loads of mackrel this summer but they are smaller then usual.

My family has a history of mental illness; my mother has Bipolar Disorder, my two brothers and I, and my nephew, who killed himself at 13 last year. My brother also attempted quite a few times.

I was hospitalized twice for psychotic depression and mania. I was on several combination of antidepressants and anti-psychotics which helped, but I was not healthy.

It has been three years and I have not been on any pharmaceuticals and have not had a single relapse. How did I do it? I gave a careful awareness to how my body reacted to food and changed my diet. I found that I was extremely sensitive to Glutamate, (as in glutamic acid, as in MSG, hydrolyzed pea protein, autolyzed yeast extract, and any of the other countless names food manufactures give the flavor enhancer)

So, I stopped eating processed foods and focused on food low in glutamic acid, like sweet potatoes and quinoa. Then I slowly went off my meds. They were telling me I would only get worse. They were right, but that would only have been true if I kept up the bad diet.

I will not hash it all the science out here, you can read my blog where I explain the links I made in some of my posts;

Basically, I feel that some people have, or create, more glutamate receptors which make the brain more sensitive.

I also took Omega 3's, and resveratrol. They both regulate intracellular glutamate:

Glutamate imbalance I feel it the key to illness, from diabetes to cancer. But I know for myself that it helped me so that is all that matters. I am 43 and people think I am 30, and my family can not believe the change in my mental health.

A question: Where did this convention of numbering carbon atoms from the aliphatic end of the fatty acid chain come from? It's certainly in violation of IUPAC rules of nomenclature. I was taught, and have taught students to number from the end with the carboxyl.

Guess I have to answer my own question again. From the Wikipedia (italics mine):

n−x (n minus x; also ω−x or omega-x) a shorthand way to categorize fatty acids by their physiological properties. A double bond is located on the xth carbon–carbon bond, counting from the terminal methyl carbon (designated as n or ω) toward the carbonyl carbon. For example, α-Linolenic acid is classified as a n−3 or omega-3 fatty acid, and so it shares properties with other compounds of this type. The ω−x or omega-x notation is common in popular literature, but IUPAC has deprecated it in favor of n−x notation in technical documents. The most commonly researched fatty acid types are n−3 and n−6, which have unique biological properties.

What about walnut? It contains more omega-3 than fish.

There are some land plants that are sources of omega-3 fats. For some people, these may be just as good, but some people lack the genes needed to convert them to other (more useful) omega-3s. Flax, purslane and some nuts all contain a decent amount of ALA, or alpha-linoleic acid, an omega-3.

Dr Weil has a good food pyramid:
I have some reserves concerning vitamin supplementation for people with existing medical conditions.
Always ask your physician for possible interactions with medications.

Fish populations have decreased, while human population has increased ... PEAK COD LIVER OIL!

A chart showing global human and global fish population for the last 100 years would be interesting to see.

This is not the chart you want but this chart shows that deep dea fishing has peaked while aquaculture is growing.

But the aquaculture fish are fed wild fish. So this does not help.

As I argue at that link: We need to genetically engineer grains to produce omega 3 fatty acids DHA and EPA. Then we can feed the grains to aquaculture fish.

I have this document showing per capita fish consumption since 1970.

I have to say, one reason I love The Oil Drum is the inquisitive people here. Usually when I post my blog link in a comment I get very few hits. But here, I have gotten 33 in no time.

A good book that summarizes the history of omega-3/omega-6 research is The Queen of Fats, by Susan Allport. Includes discussion of population studies that show strong correlation of omega-3/omega-6 imbalance with high rates of diabetes and obesity.

For whatever it's worth, it appears that the solid scientific evidence for a role of omega-3 fatty acids in mental health is a little thin (this is echoed by the source quoted in Dr. Petit's article above). Sorry I could not find a date on this report ( , but by reading it you get a sense for how difficult it is to get this information. Yes there have been randomized controlled studies done, but they have a host of problems.

It's the same story with vitamin D, and vitamin C. It's hard and expensive to do good research, and spending money on a vitamin, which you won't be able to get a patent for, is not usually cost-effective.

"It's hard and expensive to do good research, and spending money on a vitamin, which you won't be able to get a patent for, is not usually cost-effective."

Very true. This is a major problem, as it tends to be a self-fulfilling prophesy. Patentable drugs are where the profits are, so that's where the research money goes, so no good research is available on natural substances, which means that drugs are the only option, so they get more research funding...

The whole issue of nutrition is a nightmare to try and work out and zeroing in on one aspect such as a single vitamin or such is a waste of time. In my case I just went back to a basic assumption that what we ate for most of our evolution is what is best for us. It is impossible to micromanage nutrition.

Research along those lines made me realise that we're still evolving as far as food is concerned and quite rapidly. Over the last few thousand years as we've added new foods to our diet those that were genetically predispose to problems are removed from the gene pool. This is still happening with hospitals full of people with degenerative illnesses due to the food they eat (usually lumped under genetic disorders or some such). In the Middle Ages the situation was so bad that they put the deaths down to being victims of poising our witchcraft, with many of the elite having food tasters, etc.

Many of our modern foods (ie. adopted in the last few thousand years) are still problematic for many including wheat and cows milk (two of the worst). Foods developed in the last century are probably bad for our health in the main (including vegetable oils) and the change in farming methods deleterious to both us nutritionally and our environment.

In the end the only way I could see of having a healthy diet was to produce my own food organically, minimise processing, minimise shop bought goods to basic ingredients, drop anything introduced in the last 50 years and minimise problem foods such as wheat, cows milk, etc. Luckily this also dovetailed with my plans to mitigate financial, energy and climate crises. Conclusion, if you depend on the economy and society to feed you, you're screwed and will probably fall victim to nutrition unknowingly (the hidden killer).

What we ate for most of our evolution is what is best for us,
I agree with you Burgundy.

Burgundy your point about evolving foods/diets versus evolving people is probably the most critical one made in the entire discussion.

We are almost certainly not yet adapted to our current diets and probably won't adapt because the normal Darwinian mechanisms may have been sidetracked by agriculture evolving faster than humans-our dits are changing so fast our genes probably can't really keep up.

The modern diet is perfectly adequate insofar as growing up, raising kids ,and dying is concerned.

The selective pressure favoring a healthier diet probably is just not adequate to change us-enough people live to reproduce (on a less than optimum diet but getting all they want to eat) than are necessary to keep the world well populated with naked apes.

Grandparents and village elders are not worth as much as they used to be and therefore there is not as much advantage to the group any more in thier living long enough to help with the grandkids,at least not in wealthy western societies.

The pressure is probably still on in the third world though.But even there the diet may be changing faster than the genome.

These thoughts are speculative but there are some biologists who think along these lines.

I agree that poor diets can still produce humans healthy enough to breed. The bulk of the problems from poor diets are usually found in degenerative diseases that can afflict a person for decades before some opportunistic disease finishes them off. Also, long periods of adequate calories but low nutrition leaves people susceptible to epidemics/pandemics (aka. the Black Swan type event).

The third world is certainly vulnerable to food scarcity or unaffordablity, but the first world is most at risk to inappropriate diet changes (mismatch of foods with our genetic make-up). We have the cocktail of denatured foods, additives, synthesised foods, genetically & chemically altered foods, imbalanced & low diversity diets, all mixed with another cocktail of pharma toxins and environmental pollutants. Its no wonder that people are going down like nine pins.

It can take centuries to weed out genetically unadaptable populations and the medical industry is making a fortune out of the process of evolution in the meantime. As the whole process of slow degenerative disease is so profitable there will be little will to change the situation, but plenty of profitable solutions for treatment will be proffered.

Evening primrose is an excellent source of EFAs and grows wild in most of the northern hemisphere.

More questions for you all!

How can we all sit here saying that omega-3 is so hard to get? A simple search on finds lots of foods heavy in omega-3's that are sustainable plant sources:

baby zucchini

If I'm just going by labels, it would appear that if I eat abundant quantities of these, then I should be fine. Will these not convert like the flaxseeds example? Are the labels misleading in that the body won't convert the omega-3 but will convert the omega-6, leading to a worse imbalance, not less?

This issue is amazingly confusing! The post here seems to insulate that we need to completely change our diets to something healthy instead of adding a simple supplement (which has always been our solution to these kinds of problems). That seems hard to believe for me. Why are fish so much superior to other sources?

Why are fish so much superior to other sources?

Fish that live in cold water need a high percentage of unsaturated fatty acids in the phospholipids that comprise their cell membranes, in order to keep the membranes fluid. This is what it primarily boils down to.

It is important to keep in mind that the success of the Mediterranean diet is about more than just the Omega 3s.

Our work with the Mediterranean dietary approach has shown that the behavioral habits of healthy eating are equally important. To make this work, you need both elements -- what you eat and how you eat it.

Eat Well, Lose Weight, and Love Your Food Again

I have two of the three :-)

67 down, 33 to go :-)