NIH Study Illustrates Shift to High Omega-6 Diet

April 12, 2011

Researchers calculated U.S. consumption patterns from 1909 to 1999 by following the availability of essential fatty acids in 373 food commodities over the course of that time.

Diets high in omega-6s and low in omega-3s have been linked to a variety of problems relating to inflammation. A recent study conducted at the NIH National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, published by the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, attempts to elucidate the United States shift towards a diet overwhelmingly high in omega-6s.

Researchers calculated U.S. consumption patterns from 1909 to 1999 by following the availability of essential fatty acids in 373 food commodities over the course of that time.

Consumption of soybean oil, which is high in omega-6s, is estimated to have increased 1,000-fold during the time frame.

Overall availability of omega-6 linoleic acid (LA) increased from 2.79% to 7.21% of energy in the diet while availability of omega-3 alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) increased from 0.39% to just 0.72%. LA to ALA ratios increased from 6.4 in 1909 to 10.0 in 1999.

The researchers concluded that significant increases in omega-6 foods, primarily from soybean oil, have likely resulted in significant decreases in tissue omega-3 levels.