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MachOneMustang 10-05-2004 11:59 AM

New to EFA (Omega-3 and 6) supplements/ Concerned about omega-6:3 ratio.
Hey Guys.

After reading many success stories, combined with my own intuitions regarding Essential Fatty Acid (EFA) supplements, last week I purchased GNC’s Omega Complex. I have been told that heart complications run in my family and I am looking to improve my skin and hair, as well as better overall mood and health. Let me note that I’m an 18 and that I also take a “mega” vitamin/mineral supplement and the occasional MSM.

Going into all of this, I knew primarily the basics of EFA’s: the benefits, the risks, and in particular the precious ratio one should achieve of omega-6’s to omega-3’s. As you may or may not know, this ratio is supposed to be no more than 5 omega-6’s to 1 omega-3 (5:1) at any given time, a feat many eastern cultures attain. However, the typical American diet supplies an average ratio in the 20:1 range, even 50:1 in the most severe cases. Of course, these numbers are only generalizations, and do not apply to every American. The reason is that omega-6’s seem to be easily obtainable from vegetable oils (corn oil, evening primrose oil, pumpkin oil, safflower oil, sesame oil, soybean oil, sunflower oil, walnut oil, wheatgerm oil), while omega-3’s are found primarily in fatty fish (anchovies, bluefish, carp, catfish, halibut, herring, lake trout, mackerel, pompano, salmon, striped sea bass, tuna (albacore), whitefish) and remote plant sources (tofu/soybeans, walnuts, flaxseed oil, and canola oil).

Given the above examples, it is clear to see how eastern countries, cultures whose diets are largely in part dominated by fish, are easily able to achieve a less than 5:1 ratio of these EFA’s. It is also clear to see, on the other hand, how the typical American diet (loaded with processed foods and not a whole lot of fish), does little to help balance it out.

This is where EFA supplements come into play. Surely they cannot replace eating those fatty fish or select plant oils (just like no supplement can fully substitute for natural sources), but they have been hailed for helping significantly. However, picking the right supplement can be tricky; one must know what to look for. If uneducated, to me it seems one could easily throw off their ratio even more drastically, which is in essence my main concern. Below are my supplement’s dosages (I am only taking 2 per day as of now):

[B]Serving Size[/B] 3 soft gel capsules
[B]Servings Per Container[/B] 30
[B]Amount Per Serving / % DV[/B]
[B]Calories[/B] 30
[B]Calories from Fat[/B] 30
[B]Total Fat[/B] 3g / 5%
[B]Vitamin E[/B] (as d-alpha Tocopherol) 30 IU / 100%
[B]LA[/B] (Linoleic Acid)(omega-6) 463 mg **
[B]ALA[/B] (alpha-Linoleic Acid)(omega-3) 378 mg **
[B]Oleic Acid[/B] (omega-9) 239 mg **
[B]EPA[/B] (Eicosapentaenoic Acid) (omega-3) 180 mg **
[B]GLA[/B] (gamma Linolenic Acid)(omega-6) 180 mg **
[B]DHA[/B] (Docosahexaenoic Acid)(omega-3) 120 mg **
[B]Lipase[/B] 1200 units **
** [B]Daily Value (DV) not established.[/B]

[B]Other Ingredients:[/B] Borage Oil, Flax Seed Oil, Gelatin, Fish Body Oil, Canola Oil, Glycerin, Caramel Color

Alpha-Linoleic Acid (ALA) is the source from which the 2 omega-3 acids (EPA and DHA) are produced; while Linoleic Acid (LA) is the source from which the omega-6 acid (GLA) is produced. It is up to the body to convert ALA and LA into their respective “sub-acids.” I picked my supplement because not only does it supply both a healthy serving of ALA and LA, but also supplies the individual by-products as well (EPA, DHA, and GLA). This isn’t to say other supplements did not do this, I just found this one to have the most.

Which brings me to my first question. Since my supplement supplies 463mg of LA (omega-6), and 378mg of ALA (omega-3), a ratio of roughly 1.2:1, is this only increasing my “typical American” diet’s imbalance of omega-6’s to 3’s? It should be known that I do not eat much fish. As a matter of fact, I basically don’t eat fish at all; seafood was never one of my favorites. However, neither is fast food or “junk food” for that matter. A typical breakfast for me consists of either bagels/toast or cereal with juice or milk. Lunch (when I do eat it) may be a cold hoagie or a moderately healthy snack, possibly even the occasional fast food. Dinner is usually Italian food of some sort (pasta, pizza, etc.) or grilled meat (hamburgers, steak, etc.). Salads are plentiful. No seafood. I try to drink 8 glasses of water a day and seldom do I drink soda. Rarely do I drink Alcohol as well. So maybe I’m not all that typical after all… or am I?

Omega-6’s and 3’s compete with each other to be converted into active metabolites in the body. My supplement delivers around 1.2:1 (omega-6:3) of “source” acids and 1.7:1 of “converted” acids. Should I be increasing my intake of omega-3’s?

Next question. Since its up to the body to convert LA and ALA into their respective acids, can the body decide whether or whether not it wants to do so? Beta-carotene is a source of vitamin A, but the body only converts beta-carotene into vitamin A as needed to avoid toxicity; what isn’t needed isn’t used. Are the EFA’s a similar situation? If my body wanted more omega-3’s and not omega-6’s, could it discard the LA and only convert the ALA? Or is the body forced to convert both LA and ALA?

Lastly, can anyone tell me exactly what the pros and cons to omega-6’s and omega-3’s are? Reports keep claiming that omega-3 can take the place of omega-6 almost entirely, but then why is omega-6 still considered an EFA? Is it true that omega-3 is an anti-inflammatory whereas omega-6 is a pro-inflammatory? Should I worry about any kind of supplement interaction with my vitamins or MSM? Are there any interactions? How long before dosage should be increased? What is omega-9?

I apologize for the long thread; it was not my original intention. If anyone can supply me with answers to any of my questions as well as ANY kind of feedback or advice regarding omega supplements, it would be GREATLY appreciated. I am new to these supplements and count a lot on first-hand accounts to make my decisions. Thank you so much in advance!

Jess75 10-05-2004 08:51 PM

Re: New to EFA (Omega-3 and 6) supplements/ Concerned about omega-6:3 ratio.
Dr. Mercola's website has a lot of good information pertaining to the imbalance of the proper omega fatty acid ratios. He advocates taking an omega 3 supplement only, considering the fact the 6 and 9's are in alot of the food we eat, like breads, cereals, veggies, veg oil etc. So the conclusion I came up with is eat a well balanced diet and supplement omega 3 ONLY with fish oil, and in addition, add flaxseeds and walnuts to your every day diet. Read up on this imbalance, you do not need anymore 6 and 9's according to him! :nono:

Gopherhead 10-06-2004 06:37 AM

Re: New to EFA (Omega-3 and 6) supplements/ Concerned about omega-6:3 ratio.
Bottom line is there are virtually no cases of omega 6 deficiencies, because, as Jess pointed out, it is readily available in our food supply - overly available actually. It's a differenct story when it comes to Omega 3. If you want to really educate yourself on EFAs and fats in general pick up Udo Erasmus' book "Fats the heal, Fats that Kill".

It is estimated that most of us could supplement with only omega 3 for years and still not correct the balance; that many of our present day illnesses are the cause of too much omega 6.

MachOneMustang 10-07-2004 09:04 AM

Re: New to EFA (Omega-3 and 6) supplements/ Concerned about omega-6:3 ratio.
Thank you for your replies!

You guys are right. Even with my fairly healthy diet, I still am getting way too much omega-6's and 9's and basically no 3's, so taking a supplement with all of them will only throw off this balance even more.

I've stopped taking that supplement and will probably go out and buy Fish Body Oil only. However, I do still have a question. They say that the fish oils (regardless of what fish it is from) found in supplements contain NO traces of mercury, whereas the fish itself does. How does this happen? Do they "de-toxify" the oils or was it never present in them in the first place?

Also, I noticed a slight flare-up in my acne within 3 days of taking the Omega Complex supplement. Is this normal? Do you have any ideas as to why?

Once again, thanks.

Rickhard 10-08-2004 09:57 AM

Re: New to EFA (Omega-3 and 6) supplements/ Concerned about omega-6:3 ratio.
The best food source of Omega 3s is ground flax seed[flaxmeal] Flax has so many important nutrients besides just the Omega 3s. The improvement in my health since eating ground flax seed has been phenomenal. See my other posts. These seeds are cheap if you shop around. Buy the whole seeds and grind them yourself right before eating. i cook mine with oats. I am off antidepressant, anti-anxiety, allergy and asthma medicine. The only thing I coulnd't get off was my acid reflux medicine. Flax has Omega 3, 6 and 9. The number comes from the molecule where there is a double bond. The flax has the best balance of 3 and 6. You need a lot more 3 than 6. I don't know where you got your ratios but I have seen there is disagreement in this area.
My mental and physical stamina is way up. I'm doing over twice as much aerobic exercise as I was before I started eating flax. My blood pressure was 118/78 on Aug. 24, my best reading ever. I'm 48 yo. My doctor said I looked healthy. Earlier this year I suffered from exercise intolerance. I had it for about three years. My doctor didn't know what to do for me. Things began to change in March when I started eating oatmeal for breakfast everyday. I quit eating junk food, too. I learned about flax in April but didn't start eating it until June. At first I thought it was too expensive[about $3 a pound on the net] and I thought grinding it would be too much trouble. Then I saw it in a local store for 89 cents a pound. At that price I felt if it didn't work, i wouldn't be out much. To my pleasant surprise, it worked great. I now do at least ninety minutes of aerobic exercise five or six days a week. That's up from nothing. I would have bad reactions to exercise when I was eating junky food like falling asleep shortly afterward or feeling real weak and tired the next day. Now, I only feel tired occasionally. I did have to get up to the half cup level. I started with one tablespoon the first day and worked my way up. If you grind a 1/4 cup of whole seeds, it makes a half cup. Different people reccommend different amounts. a 1/2 cup works for me. I had a terrible problem with feeling colder than other people. I read on a horse webiste that eating ground flax seed will improve your tolerance to cold. Now, my wife and I keep the windows even if it gets below 50 degrees F. My wife eats it everyday with me. Oats and ground flax seed is the real "breakfast of champions". That's what I feel like. I recently rode the bike for 2 hours, 16 minutes and 33 seconds. That is the longest ride of my life. The only other time I rode it for two hours was when I was taking a liquid oxygen supplement called Oxybuild 1200. I've had three other recent rides that were over two hours. This stuff is great. It helps your red blood cells transport oxygen more efficiently. The Omega 3s give you more mental and physical energy so you feel like doing more exercise. I took the Oxybuild 1200 about seven years ago. It was a lot mroe expensive than the flax and it didn't have any nutrients in it. Ground flax seed is the way to go. I reccommend cooking it, because again that is what is working for me. There is disagreement in this area, too, but from what I've read cooking it is fine as long as the temperature doesn't go over 350 degrees F. Eating the whole seeds does no good because the human stomach can't digest it. The outer layer of the seed is too tough. Good luck.

Jess75 10-10-2004 07:28 AM

Re: New to EFA (Omega-3 and 6) supplements/ Concerned about omega-6:3 ratio.
Flax IS also a great source of omega 3. However, fish oil has epa and dha which is what most of the fat in our brain is primarily made up of! With flax, a small or hardly any amount gets converted to epa and dha. But the fiber, omega 3 and vitamin content in flax is wonderful. Sorry, I can't answer your question about how it's done with eliminating mercury. It says molecularly distilled on my bottle.

zip2play 10-10-2004 07:42 AM

Re: New to EFA (Omega-3 and 6) supplements/ Concerned about omega-6:3 ratio.

You are looking at the supplementation wrong. First off you cannot get Omega-3's in nature without the rest of the lipid complex so there will always be some of the 6's. As gopher said the 6's are ubiquitous in all vegetable oils. DO NOT worry about adding a little 6's in order to get your 3's.
For example If your normal diet is 10 grams omega 6 to 1/2 gram omega 3 you're eating a 20 :: 1 ratio. If you add a supplement with 1.5 grams 6's and 1 gram 3's, your totals become 11.5 :: 1.5. The supplement has improved your balance to 7.7::1 even though you have added a smattering more of omega-6's. See what I mean?

For the next question: If you provide enough Omega-3's, usually defined as the total of DHA and EPA, your body will arrange them as it needs them. Any excess goes to your hips:eek:! (1 gram/day is a pretty good goal)

Omega-6 is considered an EFA because in small amounts, it really IS. It's the TOO MUCH that causes problems. Unless one is a complete carnivore who never touches fish, omega-6's will NEVER be in short suppy.

If we concentrate on getting that gram of Omega-3 oils, all else falls into place pretty nicely.

(Buy some canola oil for everyday use...a nice balanced source of Omega-3's...and of course, the beloved fish oils!)

sunshine919 10-11-2004 10:37 AM

Re: New to EFA (Omega-3 and 6) supplements/ Concerned about omega-6:3 ratio.
MachOne - nice, is that what you drive ;)

You asked alot of questions that I probably can't really answer but I wanted to share with you my supplementation routine and will post with any further results:

Carlson's Cod Liver Oil (Best source of Omega-3 DHA and EPA). Tastes like lemon butter - no fishy taste whatsoever. The serving size is one teaspoon, but I take one tablespoon daily and this provides an excellent amount of the Omega-3 that is already converted for your body's use, unlike flax seed oil. If you find your body does not readily convert ALA then fish oil is your best Omega-3 supplement. If you are exposed to the sun much then cod liver oil is not for you as cod liver oil is high in vitamin D. I am hardly in the sun, especially now that it is Fall, so I feel it is fine. I should probably have my levels checked anyway. Take regular fish oil instead if you are weary.

In the morning, I make a smoothie with an apple, berries, stevia, lecithin granules, ground flax seed, and evening primrose oil. Incorporating Borage Oil or Evening Primrose Oil provides an excellent amount of GLA - the omega-6 that many people lack and is important to the body. GLA is not found in other food sources with Omega-6. This must be supplemented, as I am sure you know. I also have a piece of sprouted multi-grain toast with coconut oil (in place of butter). Coconut oil - the right kind - is a great replacement in cooking etc.

I take a B-Complex Vitamin 1 daily, Vitamin C 1500-2500 mg daily, Vitamin E (I try for 800 IU per day - of d-alpha and mixed tocopherols), Zinc & Magnesium at bedtime, and Beta-Carotene 25,000 IU twice daily.

I have changed to a very healthy diet - organic veggies and fruits, and I make sure the chicken and turkey I eat are not injected with antibiotics and are fed a certified organic grain. However, I keep my poultry consumption to about a fistfull daily anyway. Alot of salad and certain veggies. I am keeping myself to pretty strict guidelines for now.

So I hope maybe you will take my recommendation on the Carlson's Cod Liver Oil - Carlson's also makes a Fish Oil as well if you have the vitamin D problem - and maybe some of the other vitamin recs. You really just have to try things out and see if it works for your body. That is what I am doing now.

zip2play 10-12-2004 06:03 AM

Re: New to EFA (Omega-3 and 6) supplements/ Concerned about omega-6:3 ratio.
I LOVE the taste of my Twin Lab Norwegian UNFLAVORED Cod Liver Oil (mint and cherry flavored are repulsive- yeccch, imagine cherry fish!).

I suppose to many people it would taste too fishy but it's a DELICIOUS fish taste without the slightest hit of good sushi (I keep it Fridged after I open a bottle.)

MachOneMustang 10-12-2004 10:24 AM

Re: New to EFA (Omega-3 and 6) supplements/ Concerned about omega-6:3 ratio.
Wow, you guys are awesome!

At first I didn’t think this post was going to merit any responses, but I’m glad I was proven wrong! Thank you all for chipping in, I have learned a LOT about the EFA’s.

I still have one minor unanswered question though. In the Acne Forum on this site, members hail omega-3 and -6 for clearing up their skin, which was one of the initial reasons I looked into EFA supplements. However, within days of taking the Omega Complex supplement, my acne flared up. The flare is slowly tapering off (now that I have stopped taking the pills), but does anyone know what could have caused it? I would love to experience the benefits of another EFA supplement, but am hesitant due to what it may lead to; who knows how long the flare would have lasted. My paranoia stems from the fact that four months ago, I ended a favorably successful Accutane course, and the last thing I want to do is erase what too so long to attain.

Could it have been the fact that the supplement contained fish oil? Could I be allergic to it? I have never really eaten “fish”; the closest I have come are scallops, shrimp, and flounder, for they are the ONLY seafood I have ever eaten. Perhaps I have some unknown allergy to fish-related products?

Or… could it be I started the dosage off too high? The directions on the bottle say take up to 3 capsules daily; I started taking 2 a day. Should one start off at a lower, or possibly skip a day or 2 between each supplementation at first? Or doesn’t this even matter?

Or lastly… could it have been an interaction with the other supplements I am taking. Like I said, I am also taking a “super” multivitamin (GNC’s Ultra Mega Gold), a calcium/magnesium supplement (GNC’s Calcium 1000/Magnesium 400), and an MSM supplement (GNC’s MSM 1000). I take each twice daily, which complies with the directions for each supplement. I have been taking the Ultra Mega Gold and MSM 1000 for about a month with moderately pleasing results. I begun taking the Calcium 1000/Magnesium 400 and the Omega Complex supplements on the same day, and I continue to take the Calcium/Magnesium supplement.

Again, thank you guys so much (and sorry for being a pain)!

Gopherhead 10-12-2004 10:35 AM

Re: New to EFA (Omega-3 and 6) supplements/ Concerned about omega-6:3 ratio.
[QUOTE=MachOneMustang]within days of taking the first Omega Complex supplement, my acne flared up. The flare is slowly tapering off (now that I have stopped taking the pills), but does anyone know what could have caused it? [/QUOTE] This was actually answered but not directly :)

Did this complex contain [U]both[/U] 3[B] and 6?[/B] If the answer is yes, then it was probably the 6. Too much 6 in relation to 3 causes all kinds of problems, and one of them is skin related.

More on the ratio problem:

Omega 6's inflammatory properties:

Another possibility just occurred to me. Is there an CLA in your Omega Complex? CLA is considered part of the EFA's (it is an isomer of LA/ omega 6) and it is notorious for breakouts.


MachOneMustang 10-14-2004 12:50 PM

Re: New to EFA (Omega-3 and 6) supplements/ Concerned about omega-6:3 ratio.
Hey again!

Gopherhead, yes there was both omega-3 and –6 in my supplement, even omega-9! The Supplement Facts are listed in my initial post in this thread, if you would like to view the exact dosages. As far as the presence of CLA, this is the first I am hearing of it. Furthermore, it is not listed specifically on the label, so I am led to believe there is none. I also read both of your posts that you linked to, very useful information! Thank you for that.

So, I want to start taking omega supplements again, and I think I have learned from my previous mistakes. I’m going to stick to the omega-3’s, with little to no supplementation of omega-6’s or -9’s. Flax seed, cod liver, and canola oil seem to be the sources of choice, but it would cost too much to supplement with each. Buying un-ground flax seeds is another option, but I don’t have a grinder (or a blender… or whatever household appliance is used to do the job).

So the question I have is this: does flax seed oil contain the same nutrient potency (not just omega-3) as freshly ground seeds? I suspect not, but how much do they differ? Should flax seed oil and a fish body oil supplement cover my EFA needs entirely (remember: I do not eat fish)? If not, what else should I supplement with?

And lastly (for now), should I start off small (dosage-wise), as to avoid an adverse reaction from my skin? I know the breakouts were most likely caused by the omega-6 overload, but who’s to say it just wasn’t too many EFA’s at once? Or… am I just being a worry-wort and there is no real risk in jumping right into a daily routine omega-3 supplements? However, if in fact I should start off small, any suggestions on dosage/ how many times per week?

Once again, thank you guys so much!

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