More Dangers of Omega-6 Fats

Filed under: General Health, Nutrition

For you long-time readers you have heard me mention how foods high in omega-6 fats (like industrial vegetable oils – corn, cotton, safflower, soybean, and sunflower) can be problematic and lead to health issues. I am a believer that excess consumption of these oils has contributed, along with high fructose corn syrup, overall excess calories, and a sedentary lifestyle to our obesity epidemic. Recently Stephan Guyenet wrote a great piece on the contributions of industrial vegetable oils to our obesity epidemic, read it here.

In that article he talks about two studies that look at mice that consume excessive omega-6 fats (meaning their omega-6 to omega-3 ratio was above the recommended 4:1) and how it lead to not only their obesity, but it even lead to obesity in their offspring, even if they did not consume excess omega-6 fats.

This leads me into my main focus for today. As important as weight regulation is and clearly excess omega-6 consumption alters that, at least in rats and mice, it also can increase risk of cancer, again at least in rats and mice.

A new study conducted by Sonia de Assis of Georgetown University showed that when pregnant rats were fed a diet high in omega-6 fats, it increased risk of cancer for the children and grandchildren of those rats, even if they themselves at normal diets. Granddaughters of the rats had a 30% greater chance of developing breast cancer than the granddaughters of rats who did not eat excess omega-6 during their pregnancy.

In many ways this also piggy backs on the thought that consuming the pesticides, herbicides and fungicides thought to be obesogens during pregnancy can alter the bodyweight and bodyfat of those children. I wrote an entire blog on that topic.

Now to be clear this does not mean that fat causes cancer. What it means is eating shitty food that is made up of man-made industrial oils is a bad idea. If you focus on eating real food, and take your fish oil, as well as eating fish 2x/week and getting in your share of flax and chia seeds, this is not an issue. However, if you rely a lot on fast-food or pre-packaged meals, they are usually made with these dangerous low-quality oils because they are cheap, so buyer beware.

It should also be noted that omega-6 fats are an essential part of your diet, you need them to function properly and for the inflammatory and healing process. The ideal ration of omega-6 to omega-3 fats is anywhere from 4:1 to 1:1. Unfortunately the typical American diet is between 16:1 to 20:1, which can lead to heart issues, depression, infertility and cancer.

A healthy omega-6 fat

A healthy omega-6 fat

The thought is that these powerful omega-6 fats can alter how our genes function or are expressed, without actually altering the genes themselves. There is mounting evidence that so much of what we do, as well as what our ancestors do, has a huge influence in how our genes are expressed and our disease risk.

Your lifestyle, environment and those of your immediate ancestors can all affect your disease risk tremendously, as our genes themselves only account for a small fraction of our risk, we determine the rest, so choose wisely.

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Posted on April 30th, 2010 by Brian St. Pierre

14 Comments

  1. Glenn Says:

    Good post, Brian. But what that line about Clarence Thomas supposed to mean?

  2. Glenn Says:

    Drat, I put this on the wrong post. Sorry!

  3. shantal Says:

    Can you take Omega 3 by itself or do you need to balance omega 6 with it?

  4. shantal Says:

    Is it bad to only take omega 3 on its own or do you need omega 6 to balance the intake???

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