In March of this year, I met up with some folks working in the area of inflammation and how it relates to every non-communicable disease out there. The concept of the inflammatory model for disease is a new emerging area of study and I’m excited for what comes out of it, which in reality has always been known, but never comprehensively put together nor with treatment protocols created.
The field is very broad but one of the most significant instigators of inflammation in the body is the imbalance of Omega 6 (O6) fatty acids, which is pro-inflammatory in our bodies, versus Omega 3 (O3) fatty acids, which are anti-inflammatory. Both are necessary components in humans and are required for proper body function. However, the Western diet has, over the last century, come to be dominated by O6 due to the proliferation of vegetable oils. Any vegetable oil that you use in cooking, frying, salad dressings – anything – is literally almost all O6 and no O3. Even olive oil, which is great for you by a lot of measures, is still 11 to 1 in ratio of O6 to O3. Check out this Wikipedia page on the ratio of O6 to O3 in typical oils. It also talks about typical ratios of O6 to O3 in other foods as well.
Note that industrial farming has also increased the O6 content of foods. For example, grain fed beef has a lot more O6 in it than O3, when compared to grass fed/grass finished beef. This is seen in other animals and fowls as well.
The average Western human has a ratio as high as 25:1 (O6:O3), with a range of 10 to 20:1, given a diet rich in vegetable oils, fried foods, sugar, and processed carbs. Anthropological studies put ancient humans with a very natural diet at a ratio of 1:1. Some have estimated a healthy range between 2.3 to 1:1.
Two great resources on the topic are:
Omega-6/3 Fatty Acids: Functions, Sustainability Strategies and Perspectives by Fabien De Meester (Editor), Ronald Watson (Editor), Sherma Zibadi (Editor)
Fish, Omega-3 and Human Health by William E.M. Lands
With that in mind, I set out to see what it would take to move my own ratio to 1:1, taking me all the way back to caveman status, and, of course, hopefully lowering my inflammation.
As with any experiment like this, I began with an O6:O3 test. Omegaquant’s blood spot fatty acid tests are perfect for this. You can measure just O3, or do trans fats, or do a full fatty acid profile. You just prick your finger, smear your blood on the card, and mail it in. Results are sent back to you via email. I would change my diet and hold it constant for 4 months; which is about how long it takes for all the blood cells in your body to die and be reborn. When the cells are reborn, you want them to be reborn in a different fatty acid ratio environment.
I used the Omega-3 Index Complete test, pricked my finger, smeared it on the card, and sent it in. This was March 28, 2016. A week later, the results came back with a ratio of 1.6:1 (O6:O3)! I thought I was eating healthy but didn’t think I would have a value that was that close to 1:1.
My diet and eating pattern back then was like this:
Bulletproof coffee with 1 Tbsp Brain Octane
Glass of water with 11g BCAAs, 1 Tbsp MCT oil.
Nordic Naturals Ultimate Omega, 4 capsules = 2560mg O3
Nordic Naturals Ultimate Omega + CoQ10, 2 capsules = 1280mg
Total O3 supplements = 3840mg
Supplements were taken in the morning without food.
Hamburger patty, cooked in olive oil, or Salmon mostly, or other fish, cooked in olive oil.
Hamburger was either Whole Foods pastured raised or grass fed. Chose either.
Salmon was chiefly Whole Foods Atlantic Salmon, farm raised. Other fish was whatever Whole Foods may have: snapper, sea bass, black cod.
Olive oil is Whole Foods brand organic virgin olive oil.
Stir Fried Vegetables, likely one of: broccoli, snow peas, spinach. Cooked in olive oil.
Rib-Eye or New York Steak or Hamburger. Steak cooked on my NuWave Oven (I’ve had mine for 2 years, so check out more recent models.) Hamburger cooked in olive oil.
Stir Fried Vegetables, likely one of: broccoli, snow peas, spinach. Cooked in olive oil.
White potato or Yam, baked.
Eating Out, Snacking:
While the above was a sample of menu of when I cooked, I probably ate out for lunch often during the week and got takeout with the familiy multiple dinner times. This could be Armadillo Willy’s barbecue brisket, or takeout Chinese. Occasionally it would be seafood from a restaurant. Sometimes I’d eat sweet potato fries to substitute for baked potato or yam. On business trips, it was just eat whatever was out there.
I did snack on Bulletproof chocolate every day (small square or two). I would fly every weekend and eat trail mix in the airports.
Still, pretty good that I reached 1.6:1 eating like that. I thought that moving from 1.6:1 to 1:1 would be fairly straightforward.
For the first phase, I thought I would try to supplement my way to 1:1. In the Omega-6/3 Fatty Acids book, there is talk of needing upwards of 10g of O3 per day to balance out O6 in the typical Western diet. I increased my Nordic Naturals to add another 4 capsules of Ultimate Omega, raising my daily intake in the mornings to 6400mg. Again I would take these all at once in the morning, with no meal. I also added a liquid Nordic Naturals Omega 3 supplement of 1 tsp, which was 1600mg of O3. So now my total was about 8000mg per day. Surely if the book said 10g would take someone on a normal Western omnivorous diet to 1:1, 8000mg on my already great diet should take me there?
I didn’t make any changes to my diet at all.
4 months later, on 8/16/16, I sent in another Omega 3 Complete test and got it back a week later. My O6:O3 ratio was 1.4:1.
With supplementation of 8000mg, it only moved my ratio about .2. In examining what could have been done better, I realized:
1. Somebody pointed out to me that it is not just a game of increasing O3, but also reducing/removing O6. When I examined my diet, I noticed a bunch of things that could be removed. These were:
a. I stopped cooking with olive oil. I bought a steamer and resolved to steam all my vegetables. I also would cook my hamburger with beef tallow from a butcher shop called Belcampo, who sells beef raised on their own farms and are totally grass fed and grass finished. They’ve even tested their beef and found it to be 1:1 O6:O3 ratio! I figure the beef tallow from them must have a good O6:O3 ratio as well.
b. I would buy and eat only grass fed grass finished beef. So I started visiting Belcampo more, and I would only buy the Panorama grass fed grass finished beef at Whole Foods.
c. I decided that for this trial, I would focus solely on wild caught salmon which has the largest amount of O3 in any fish. While by some measures, farmed Atlantic salmon has the highest amount of O3, I decided to stay away from it due to it being farmed.
d. No more snacking on nuts at the airports. While they may provide good nutrients, they are also loaded with O6.
e. No avocados either. Lots of good fats in there, but still lots of O6.
f. As for eating out, there isn’t much I can do there except ask for steamed vegetables whenever possible and staying away from any sauces or dressings. Also I would stop eating any fried foods.
- I read somewhere that supplementation with O3 doesn’t work as well as eating O3 in foods. Also on the bottle it recommends taking the O3 capsules with meals which is NOT what I did. So I resolved to take them with meals. I also thought about how food is digested and potentially the timing of the doses is necessary, to align especially with meals with higher O6 content so that you can balance it out at that meal’s time. So I broke up my dose into lunch time and dinner time.
I changed my dose to:
Nordic Naturals Ultimate Omega, 2 capsules
Nordic Naturals Ultimate Omega + CoQ10, 2 capsules
Total = 2560mg
Nordic Naturals Ultimate Omega, capsules
Total = 2560mg
If I ate out, I would add an additional 4 capsules at each meal to hopefully throw in a ton of O3 alongside higher levels of O6.
In essence I was reducing the amount of supplementation, except when I’m eating out, and hoping that eliminating any and all sources of extra O6 would bring me back to a better ratio, or hopefully 1:1.
I therefore embarked on the most spartan and most consistent eating pattern I’ve ever done.
4 months later, on December 15, 2016, I sent in another test and the results came back a week later at 0.9:1! I actually overshot 1:1 by .1! Wow!
- I look forward to the development of more advanced tests to determine inflammation in the body and want to get tested. The traditional test of hsCRP is only for acute inflammation and not chronic low grade inflammation which, hopefully, is lowered for me given my new ratio.
- I did observe some health effects during this process.
a. Even at 1.6:1, I was suffering from some pretty severe dry eye. As I moved through the year improving my ratio and diet, the dry eye get measurably better. Unfortunately it did not go completely away. There is some research showing good results from treating dry eye with O3 supplementation but it only moved me a little bit and not all the way. I continue my search for dietary interventions to totally cure my dry eye.
b. My seasonal allergies literally went away during this process. I used to have constant allergy problems with nasal drip irritating my passages and throat. It would happen many times during the year. But now, I rarely get them. Allergies are inflammatory problems by nature, and I think the improvement of my ratio and my diet has made a huge improvement here. Despite my great ratio of 1.6:1, I had to move beyond it to see the improvements.
c. My skin is less dry. I used to get a rash on my hands if I didn’t apply moisturizer, after going through some days of normal bathing but also washing the dishes and hand washing. But now it seems much better, or more tolerant of the typical washing that happens.
- It’s really interesting that at a ratio of 1.6:1 didn’t have me already at a better place with respect to the above issues. However, I think it’s the improvement in diet and removal of stuff I was putting in my mouth, during the exploration of how to get to 1:1, that really made the improvements. At this point, I am not sure it was O6 that was the sole problem. There could have been other inflammatory foods I was eating that were causing the problems, or it was a combination of O6 and eating other inflammatory things. These conditions tend to be multi-factorial, and there are a lot of things that could be working in combination to create the conditions.
My wife was amazed that I could literally eat the same thing every day without getting sick of it. I think that there is opportunity to use spices to mix things up. I also ended up adding pickles, sauerkraut, and kimchi to add different flavors.
You have to realize that if you care about your health, you’re going to need to stop eating what is out there. It is really making our whole population sick. My parents both died of heart disease because they dutifully followed government and medical recommendations on diet. I remember seeing lots of corn oil, the removal of beef and concentration on eating fish and fowl (fowl is one of the best sources of O6; you can’t buy fowl that is not fed by manufactured feed) which ended up being more fowl than fish. There was no control over eating sugar or sweet things either. I also saw the passing of my father in law from lung cancer; his diet had no controls whatsoever – neither did his smoking. And I’ve also got another relative with severe Type 2 Diabetes. This person has been in the hospital multiple times due to organ failure and has been on dialysis for over a decade. I have seen these things happen in my family and now realize they are totally preventable – you basically just need to stop listening to the government, stop reacting to popular marketing (just to throw two things out there, check out: How Breakfast Became a Thing and how the sugar lobby has worked their way into every health organization in the US.) and even your doctor because all the advice they are going to give you hasn’t done anything for the prevalence of obesity, diabetes, heart disease, cancer – you name it, the incidence of all non-communicable diseases is rising sharply.
Yes, it tastes wonderful. But like all things, you can choose. I chose to give it up because my health is more important to me than needing to experience the sensory excellence of some cooking. And I’ve seen first hand what terrible things can happen to you when you get one of those non-communicable diseases. Time to choose.