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Omega 3 to Omega 6 ratio and it's impact on health


There are many things we need to eat to maintain optimal health. We have heard for years the importance of ingesting optimal levels of vitamin and minerals for health, but researchers have started to realize that there are other levels and measures that are just as important for us to monitor in order to be healthy.

One of those is the omega 3 to omega 6 ratio of which a poor one has been implicated in the increased likelihood of the development of Crohn's Disease[goto=3a][3][/goto]. Both of these are Poly Unsaturated Fatty Acids (PUFAs) that are essential for health. As the body cannot produce these on their own, it is important that they are ingested regularly in the right balance.

In the same way that one can experience sickness through overdosing on certain vitamin and minerals (such as Vitamin A) not maintaining the proper omega 3 to omega 6 ration can cause health problems also. This is largely due to the fact that any omega 3 and omega 6 fats ingested must go through some steps in the body to be converted into the forms that are best metabolized by the body. The same enzymes are used to break down omega 3 and omega 6. If there is an overconsumption of one of these fats, it will result in less of the other fat being broken down and being able to be metabolized by the body. This will result in our bodily tissues storing more of the fatty acid from the omega fat we ingested more of.

Most modern diets have seen a great increase in the consumption of omega 6 fatty acids compared to omega 3 fatty acids. Where traditional diets have been found to have omega 3 to omega 6 ratios in a range closer to 1:1 to 1:4 modern diets can currently have intakes that are closer to 1:10, 1:20 or even 1:50!

Omega 3 and omega 6 are commonly broken down as being anti-inflammatory and pro-inflammatory respectively. While people with IBD and the general public will have an anti-inflammatory bias for good reason, it is important to note that inflammation is part of a normal process by the body as part of the harm prevention/healing process from injury.

Benefits from increasing Omega 3 fatty acid intake

Omega 3 has been found to have a protective effect against mood disorders.

Major depression was found to be treatable for those without anxiety disorders using Omega 3 supplementation (fish oil).

The risk of death by Coronary Heart Disease was found to be lower in people who had a larger intake of Omega 3 fatty acids as part of their diet or through supplementation.

Studies have now also shown that the risk of breast and colorectal cancer. may be reduced through greater intake of fish and Omega 3 fatty acids

Risks from ingesting too much Omega 6

Having a poor Omega 3 to Omega 6 ratio can come about one of two possible ways:

1) Having an extremely high Omega 6 fatty acid intake (with low to normal Omega 3 intake) or

2) having an extremely low omega 3 fatty acid intake (with a normal to high Omega 6 intake).

In either case, the body will store a greater portion of the Omega 6 fatty acid in body tissue than has typically occurred throughout human history.

Dr. William Lands looked at the % of Omega 6 fatty acids in certain populations of people and looked at those populations mortality by Coronary Heart Disease. What he found was that there was a very clear link between increased Omega 6 fat in body tissue and risk of death from Coronary Heart Disease.

Other researchers have found that a higher intake of Omega 6 in brain tissues was linked to a higher frequency of depression. While this study is based off of studying rats, there are other studies that show this effect in humans also. This study found that a high Omega 6 to Omega 3 fatty acid ratio may enhance the risk of depression and inflammatory diseases (which would include IBD).

Omega 3 to Omega 6 ratio in common foods

See this link for an analysis of the omega 3 to omega 6 ratio for a variety of different foods.

The body makes arachidonic acid from n-6 fatty acids. Arachidonic acid is an inflammatory fatty acid responsible for the something called series 2 prostaglandins which are correlated with all kinds of inflammatory conditions. Many meats contain HIGH amounts of arachidonic acid because the animals are fed corn and soy instead of their natural diets.[goto=2a][2][/goto] For this reason, it is incredibly important to buy meats raised naturally. Buy grass fed beef (check and make sure they didn't feed it grains the last couple months as many do and still call it grass fed!), wild caught fish, chickens that are free ranged on pasture land and NOT fed corn or soy, etc.

Free range chicken eggs raised on bugs and pastureland have a ratio of about 1 - 1.5 whereas supermarket eggs have a ratio of 1 - 20![goto=1a][1][/goto]. The problem is that supermarket chickens are fed tons of corn and soy. Even most local "organic" farmers feed their chickens tons of corn, it's just organic. Educate a local chicken producer about the health effects of feeding their chickens corn and soy. David here on the forums let's his chickens free range and supplements their diet with flax seed and quinoa.

Supplementing Omega 3

A great way for improving your omega 3 ration is to take a daily supplement that is high in Omega 3. This will help ensure you are getting enough Omega 3 in your diet for optimal health.

While there are many food sources containing Omega 3 fats, here are some of the more popular supplements used to increase Omega 3 intake

Please remember to discuss any supplements you are thinking of taking with your doctor!

Flax seeds or flax oil

While most nuts and seeds have a very poor ratio of Omega 3 to Omega 6 fat, flax boasts an impressive ratio of just under 4 times as much Omega 3 as Omega 6.

Flax seeds can be poured into any meal (salads are a good choice) or eaten straight by the spoonful, however they may cause digestive troubles for people with IBD (like other nuts and seeds commonly do). This makes supplementing with flax oil a good option for IBD sufferers. As flax oil does not have all the protein and fiber that the seeds do, a tablespoon of flax oil has about twice as much Omega 3 as a tablespoon of flax seed.

You can quickly get your flax oil by gulping it down as a table spoon in the morning (or by purchasing flax seed capsules) or incorporating it in your meals (as a salad dressing, pouring it over tuna fish or sardines, etc).

It is very important that you store and use Flaxseed oil properly. As it is predominantly made up of unsaturated fat, it can turn rancid very easily. To protect against this, it is best to keep the flax oil refrigerated always. This includes prior to opening the bottle, which means you should not buy the oil from stores that store the bottles at room temperature. Once open, you should attempt to use the bottle within the manufacturers recommended consumption guidelines. It is thought that you should try to consume the bottle within one month of it being opened. Lastly, flax oil should not be used for cooking (especially when cooking at high temperatures).

Other than having a good Omega 3 to 6 ratio, flax is a good source of other vitamins and minerals including Vitamin B1, Manganese and Magnesium.

Chia seeds or chia oil

Best known from the Chia Pet commercials and famous product, Chia is a seed that was first used by Mexicans and South Americans thousands of years ago. Chia has grown in popularity in recent years for it's great nutritional benefits. The seeds have a very good Omega 3:6 ratio also of about 3:1. Chia is seen as an all around good nutrition source, with 1 tablespoon providing about 8% of your daily requirement for calcium, iron, phosphorus and thiamin.

While based on my personal experience they are easier to digest than many other nuts and seeds, they still should be treated with caution with anyone affected by IBD. The issue with fibre and digestion can be avoided by purchasing Chia oil. While in my experience this is harder to find than flax oil, a local health food store should carry this product.

Fish oil

Many fish species are a good source of Omega 3, either due to the plant life they eat that is high in Omega 3 or due to the fact that they eat other fish that have Omega 3 in them. An easy way to get the benefits of the Omega 3 fat from the fish is through taking a fish oil supplement.

While most plant sources of Omega 3 are higher in a form of Omega 3 fat called Alpha-Linolenic Acid (ALA) fish (and fish oil) also contain omega 3 fats in the form of Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and Docosahexaenoic Acid (DHA). While the body can convert APA to DHA and EPA, it is not a very efficient conversion. Therefore, eating sources of these fats including fish oil is superior to just relying on eating foods with ALA in them.

Each individual fish oil product will range in the amount of Omega 3 to Omega 6 that is contained in each tablespoon or gel capsule, but typically there is a greater ratio of omega 3 per serving than there is of omega 6.

Fish oil does have some safety concerns that must be considered and investigated. First off, not all brands of fish oil are clear about the source of the fish and what fish exactly is used to make the fish oil. Therefore, someone suffering from an allergy to a certain fish could potentially have reactions to some fish oil brands.

Another issue about not knowing the source or type of fish you are eating is the mercury content of the fish oil. Eating too much mercury can be harmful to your health or your child's health if you are pregnant. Each species of fish has a different average level of mercury found in them, so it is best to eat fish and fish oil made from fish with lower amounts of mercury in them.

Some fish oils go through purification steps to remove mercury and other substances not beneficial for human consumption. While the benefit of these processes is the reduced amount of contaminants in the fish oil, there are disadvantages seen by putting the oil through this step. To read about the pros and cons of some of the purification methods, click here.

Since fish oil can suffer from oxidation, it is best to keep your fish oil away from direct sunlight. One study also found that it is best to take fish oil within 36 days of it being opened (assuming storage at 10 degrees celsius/ 50 degrees farenheit).

Krill oil

Krill oil has many of the benefits of fish oil (high omega 3 content, contains ALA, EPA and DHA versions of omega 3) however there are some differences that should be considered. Krill are pretty low on the food chain as they eat Phytoplankton or similar plant life. This results in krill having a fairly low mercury content compared to many other fish, specifically fish higher on the food chain. Additionally, krill contains Asataxanthin, which is known as a strong antioxidant. According to the wikipedia article on the subject:

Research shows that, due to astaxanthin's potent antioxidant activity, it may be beneficial in cardiovascular, immune, inflammatory and neurodegenerative diseases
One of the main disadvantages I have seen from krill oil is typically there is less Omega 3 fat per capsule than most fish oil capsules. This makes it more expensive to get the same level as Omega 3 fat as if you were taking fish oil.

Cod liver oil

This is another type of fish oil that comes from... well I think the name is pretty self explanatory :). Like other fish oils, cod liver oil is a good source of Omega 3 fatty acids (including EPA and DHA). A tablespoon of cod liver oil has about 2.6 grams of Omega 3 fatty acids compared with 0.1 grams of Omega 6 fatty acids. A benefit of cod liver oil over fish oil is that it has a large amount of Vitamin A (per the previous link, a tablespoon contains 270% of your recommended daily intake) and over 1,000 IU of Vitamin D. There is a lot of research on Vitamin D and IBD indicating that taking this as a supplement can help counter the effects of the disease.

Due to the high amount of Vitamin A in Cod Liver oil, it is important that people considering taking this supplement speak to their doctor first (especially if they are pregnant). Some people may also prefer to stick with fish oil as it supposedly contains twice as much EPA and DHA as cod liver oil does. As each brand of each product will have slightly different values, it is important to perform your own comparison of products to help determine which type of oil is best for you.

More about the potential dangers of cod liver oil can be found in another forum thread.

Dangers of consuming too much Omega 3

As is the case with pretty much any food, it is possible to have too much of a good thing. While it is encouraged to get your omega 3 to 6 fat ratio in line with more traditional standards, it is not recommended to attempt to have an Omega 3ratio that absolutely dwarfs your Omega 6 intake.

Eskimos from Greenland suffered from a high rate of hemorrhagic strokes and there is some concern that this was due to their extremely high Omega 3 fat intake. Omega 3 in very large quantities is thought to increase the risk of nose bleeds and blood in your urine. Other possible risks include increases in LDL cholesterol and high intake of toxins depending on the source of your omega 3 (i.e. fish oil that is high in mercury and other toxins).

Some nutrition experts (such as Ray Peat believe that Poly Unsaturated Fatty Acids (PUFAs) in general cause health problems. Instead of focusing on improving your Omega 3 to Omega 6 ratio, Ray advocates restricting PUFAs in your diet as much as possible.

While it is important to understand the risks involved with extremely excessive Omega 3 consumption, the majority of research seems to suggest that it is important to restore our diets to more traditional levels of Omega 3 intake compared to Omega 6 intake. Over time this should restore Arachidonic acid levels to normal levels and hopefully help to alleviate some of our inflammation and other health problems.

Ways to improve your Omega 3 to Omega 6 ratio

There are two ways to improve your Omega 3/Omega 6 ratio. You can either increase your Omega 3 consumption or decrease your Omega 6 consumption. Taking steps to do both of these things will help you get your intake of Omega 3 and Omega 6 to be in a healthy range.

Below are some tips on how you can start working to improve your ratio of Omega 3 to Omega 6.

  • Take an Omega 3 supplement daily.
  • Avoid cooking with fats high in Omega 6 (corn oil, vegetable oil, peanut oil, soybean oil, cottonseed oil and sunflower oil). Better sources of fat for cooking are butter (from grass-fed cows), ghee, coconut oil (as it is mostly saturated fat) and beef tallow (ideally from grass fed cows). Flax oil is not recommended for cooking.
  • Consider using more simple salad dressings (i.e. flax oil and balsamic vinegar) or homemade salad dressings as opposed to store bought dressings that use oils very high in Omega 6. Othewise, be a smart shopper and read the ingredients carefully.


[pos]1a[/pos][1] http://www.mercola.com/beef/health_benefits.htm
[pos]2a[/pos][2] http://www.drhoffman.com/page.cfm/892
[pos]3a[/pos][3] http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8615358


Naples, Florida
Thank you so much for starting this Mike! I think getting a reduced N-3 to N-6 ratio is absolutely imperative for anyone with IBD. It's something I only learned about a few months ago and am doing lots of research on it. I'll be sure to edit in information over time.

I'm getting REALLY militant about my ratio. For example, my chickens are now fed a diet of flax seed, quinoa, and brown rice in addition to their free ranging. :D Supermarket eggs have a ratio of 1-20! I hypothesize that my chicken's eggs will have a ratio higher in n-3 than n-6. :) I'm also going to edit in some info on arachidonic acid and the importance of grass fed animal meats.


Super Moderator
How do you know what your ratio is? Is there a blood test that I could request of my doctor to see what my ratio is?
Thanks for the great post Mike!

There's an at home blood test that you can take which measures your Omega-6 to Omega-3 ratio that you can get at www.genesmart.com. Here's the direct link: http://www.genesmart.com/pages/omega_3_index_home_blood_testing_kit/105.php

I'm a fan of adding flax seeds to my homemade smoothies (yum!) but also take a fish oil supplement as it provides both EPA and DHA, which are needed together for the strongest anti inflammatory effect.

Also, in reply to your "cooking oils" section - Olive Oil and Canola Oil are both great to cook with, have a higher Omega-3 content than other oils, and [in my opinion] taste great too! :)


Naples, Florida
HealthyBug, are you in any way affiliated with Genesmart?
Also, in reply to your "cooking oils" section - Olive Oil and Canola Oil are both great to cook with, have a higher Omega-3 content than other oils, and [in my opinion] taste great too! :)
Both are extremely high in Omega 6 fatty acids so if someone is trying to get that ratio in line, they should be avoided.
Also, most Canola Oil is made from genetically modified crop and that is something that I would prefer to avoid while the jury is out on whether it is or is not predjudicial to health.
Hi David,

I've always known Olive Oil and Canola Oil to be better oils for cooking because they have a higher Omega-3 level and lower Omega-3 level, especially canola oil. (I did a google search on it to double check, here's what I found: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Omega-3_fatty_acid). As an Italian, I love my olive oil, but I try to cook with canola oil when possible as the ratio seems to be much better than most oils.

I'm looking forward to the day when all foods list their Omega-3 and Omega-6 levels on their food labels... hopefully that's not too far away! :)

:) HealthyBug
Hi David,

My apologies. Yes, I do work with Gene Smart. I noticed that there was a question on this board on how you can find out if you have a healthy Omega-6 to Omega-3 ratio, and wanted to let everyone know that there is a test available that can help you find out.

I've also struggled with inflammatory intestinal conditions myself and know what a difference diet can make in helping control flare ups, and wanted to provide any help that I could on this thread and in this community.

I hope that sharing this information on the Omega-3 Index Home Blood Test Kit has been helpful!


Naples, Florida
I've edited this into the first post in the thread but thought it was worthy of a bump. A study I found:
We examined the correlation between the incidence of Crohn disease and dietary change in a relatively homogeneous Japanese population. The incidence and daily intake of each dietary component were compared annually from 1966 to 1985. The univariate analysis showed that the increased incidence of Crohn disease was strongly (P < 0.001) correlated with increased dietary intake of total fat (r = 0.919). animal fat (r = 0.880), n-6 polyunsaturated fatty acids (r = 0.883), animal protein (r = 0.908), milk protein (r = 0.924), and the ratio of n-6 to n-3 fatty acid intake (r = 0.792). It was less correlated with intake of total protein (r = 0.482, P < 0.05), was not correlated with intake of fish protein (r = 0.055, P > 0.1), and was inversely correlated with intake of vegetable protein (r = -0.941, P < 0.001). The multivariate analysis showed that increased intake of animal protein was the strongest independent factor with a weaker second factor, an increased ration of n-6 to n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids. The present study in association with reported clinical studies suggests that increased dietary intake of animal protein and n-6 polyunsaturated fatty acids with less n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids may contribute to the development of Crohn disease.


Thanks for sharing David!

If I read one of the charts in the study correctly, it seems that having a ratio of Omega 6 to Omega 3 closer to 4:1 doubled the risk of being diagnosed with Crohn's Disease compared to a ratio closer to 3:1. This would also support maintaining as low a ratio as possible (closer to 3:1, or even lower).

I don't think the study included this detail, but it would be good to have known specifically what animal protein was being eaten (i.e. pork, chichken, beef) and in what quantities. Animal products can differ greatly in Omega 6 content, with some animal parts like chicken fat being very high in Omega 6 fatty acids. Due to the high Omega 6 content, I now avoid eating chicken skins.
Hi David:Here is a bunch of stuff I extracted from my thread on another forum
concerning this subject.
Old Mike


This is interesting since UC in Japan is still low but increasing.


I find this one interesting in that it confirms that omega 6, inhibits synthesis of omega 3 in your body.


This one is very important.


This one just used a high fat diet, I checked the rat chow and it uses lard.
See my update on the changes in the linoleic content of lard in my linoleic
thread and meat.

So excess fats in general might be a problem.


You have to read this paper to understand what went on in the study,as opposed to just the abstract.


Here is a somewhat different reason,that high fat might be a problem.


More info. This one is quite important,pleaes read the free study.


Another like the one above.


UC tissue LTB4,upregulated greatly


DIfferent oil mixes.




Its the ratio.


AA in fat.



Naples, Florida

In the secondary prevention of cardiovascular disease, a ratio of 4/1 was associated with a 70% decrease in total mortality. A ratio of 2.5/1 reduced rectal cell proliferation in patients with colorectal cancer, whereas a ratio of 4/1 with the same amount of omega-3 PUFA had no effect. The lower omega-6/omega-3 ratio in women with breast cancer was associated with decreased risk. A ratio of 2–3/1 suppressed inflammation in patients with rheumatoid arthritis, and a ratio of 5/1 had a beneficial effect on patients with asthma, whereas a ratio of 10/1 had adverse consequences.
Foods with poor ratios that normally should not have poor ratios should be outlawed. It's slowly poisoning us.

And we still have tons of doctors that say diet doesn't matter.
I started super dosing my Omega 3 intake, taking digestive enzymes and probiotics on Monday. The occurrence of fecal blood dropped drastically-so much in fact that in the last 4 days I have seen 2 or 3 specs of it. To put this in perspective; the bowl water would have a red tinge every time I went. Instead it has been light brown/green. I haven't been finding random scabbing on my body and the eczema has started to clear up.

What does everyone take for Omega 3 supplement?
Flax oil, hemp oil, fish oil, chia seeds, flax seed, and I'm sure there's more

Food I would recommend sardines and salmon.