Article Series

  1. Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids
  2. Omega-3 Fatty Acids
  3. Omega-3-rich Diet
  4. Omega-6 Fatty Acids
  5. Omega-6 To Omega-3 Ratio

Related Articles

Omega-6 To Omega-3 Ratio

Omega-6 To Omega-3 Ratio
Table Of Contents
  1. Optimal Omega-3 to Omega-6 Ratio
  2. Health benefits of a good ratio
  3. Adverse health effects due to an imbalanced ratio
  4. Omega-3 and Omega-6 Content in Selected Foods
  5. Omega-3 and Omega-6 levels in selected plant oils
  6. Healthy Foods with a Poor Ratio - What Now?
  7. Conclusions

A good Omega-3 to Omega-6 ratio is of greater importance for health. However, since most plant-based foods contain more Omega-6 fatty acids than Omega-3, an imbalance can quickly occur, leading to negative effects on health.

Optimal Omega-3 to Omega-6 Ratio

Ideally, the ratio of Omega-6 to Omega-3 fatty acids should be between 1:1 and 4:1 1. In a balanced ratio, the fatty acids work together and support each other in their effects. Studies have shown that a balanced ratio of Omega-6 to Omega-3 fatty acids is associated with a reduction in the risk of many chronic diseases 2 34.

Among vegans, it is often the case that the ratio of 4:1 is not maintained because (unconsciously) too many omega-6 fatty acids are consumed. This is also shown in studies from the Netherlands 5. The vegans had excessive intake of omega-6 (especially linoleic acid) and insufficient intake of omega-3 (especially eicosapentaenoic acid and docosahexaenoic acid). This is not surprising, considering that plant-based foods contain a lot of linoleic acid. On the other hand, eicosapentaenoic acid and docosahexaenoic acid are hardly present. Therefore, the average ratio among vegans is less than 14:1–20:1 6.

Health benefits of a good ratio

Scientists speculate that a low ratio can delay the progression of prostate cancer 7. Additionally, a favorable ratio is also associated with the prevention of atherosclerosis, stroke, and cardiovascular diseases due to a diet rich in alpha-linolenic acid (Omega-3) reducing pro-inflammatory cytokines 8 9. The ratio is also very important for homeostasis and normal body development 10.

The combination of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids is associated with the lowest inflammation levels 11.

Adverse health effects due to an imbalanced ratio

According to a 2005 study, a higher ratio is associated with lower bone density 12. The more imbalanced the ratio is in the body, the more diseases can arise. These include cardiovascular diseases, obesity, osteoporosis, depression, autoimmune diseases, cancer, and increased occurrence of inflammatory reactions in the body that can lead to further illnesses 13 14 1516 17 18 19.

Too much linoleic acid (Omega-6) in the diet hinders the conversion of alpha-linolenic acid (Omega-3) into the important Omega-3 fatty acids eicosapentaenoic acid and docosahexaenoic acid. Linoleic acid and alpha-linolenic acid compete for absorption and the same enzyme systems (Δ-6 desaturase and Δ-5 desaturase) for the formation of arachidonic acid (Omega-6) and eicosapentaenoic acid (Omega-3) 20 21 22.

Omega-6 fatty acids also inhibit the incorporation of important DHA and EPA into body tissues. 23. Ultimately, too many omega-6 fatty acids from the diet lead to reduced omega-3 levels. An omega-6-rich diet restricts the already low conversion rates of eicosapentaenoic acid (important for the immune system and blood pressure) and docosahexaenoic acid (important for the brain and eyes) from alpha-linolenic acid by up to half. 24 25 26. When less eicosapentaenoic acid is produced, it can lead to increased inflammation in the body.

Omega-3 and Omega-6 Content in Selected Foods

The following examples illustrate that a poor ratio can quickly occur:

Linoleic acid content
per 100 g
alpha-linolenic acid content
per 100 g
Ratio of
Omega-6 : Omega-3
Amaranth 2.74 0.042 65.24:1
Avocado 2.66 0.111 23.96:1
Canihua 3.24 0.46 7.04:1
Chia Seeds 5.84 17.83 1:3.05
Peanuts 14.95 0.025 598:1
Oatmeal 2.44 0.07 34.86:1
Hemp Seeds 27.36 8.68 3.15:1
Hazelnuts 7.04 0.12 58.67:1
Flaxseeds 5.9 22.8 1:3.86
Almonds 12.32 0.003 7773.33:1
Pecans 24.33 0.62 39.24:1
Pistachios 14.09 0.212 66.46:1
Walnuts 43.33 6.28 6.9:1

In the green range, you'll find chia seeds, hemp seeds, and flaxseeds. It turns out that other foods popular among vegans have a very poor ratio.

Omega-3 and Omega-6 levels in selected plant oils

Even with the use of Omega-6-rich cooking oils, a poor ratio can quickly occur:

Plant OilsOmega-6
Linoleic Acid content
per 100g
Alpha-Linolenic Acid content
per 100g
Ratio of
Omega-6 : Omega-3
Safflower oil 12.72 0.096 132.5:1
Hemp oil 56 22 2.55:1
Flaxseed oil 14.25 53.37 1:3.75
Olive oil 8.27 0.46 17.98:1
Canola oil 18.64 9.14 2.04:1
Soybean oil 50.42 6.79 7.43:1
Sunflower oil 59.46 0.29 205.03:1

Only hemp oil, flaxseed oil, and canola oil are suitable here, and they should be preferred. Canola oil is recommended for cooking.

Healthy Foods with a Poor Ratio - What Now?

Even healthy foods like amaranth, avocado, rice, and tofu have a poor ratio. It is therefore extremely important to balance the ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 with omega-3-rich foods 27. Omega-3 has an "antagonistic effect" on omega-6, which can reduce the negative effects of omega-6, such as promoting inflammation.


Vegans should pay special attention to consuming omega-3-rich foods to achieve a healthy omega-3 to omega-6 ratio of 1:1 to 1:4. This promotes health and longevity 28. It is also suggested by scientific evidence to consume more omega-3 and less omega-6 29 30. Foods high in omega-6 should be consumed sparingly. By consciously consuming foods with a good ratio, an omega-6-rich diet can be corrected. Potential health-damaging effects can be reduced or even prevented as a result.

Omega-3 is found in extremely high amounts in chia seeds, flaxseeds, and flaxseed oil. One serving of flaxseeds (15 g) contains approximately 2.5 g of omega-3, which almost meets the daily requirement. Flaxseeds are also available in ground form, which allows the body to better absorb the nutrients.

Rapeseed oil is suitable for frying. Flaxseed oil and walnut oil should not be used for cooking. They are not heat-resistant and become rancid quickly. Additionally, they should be stored in a cool and dark place.

Sunflower seeds, sunflower oil, and safflower oil, on the other hand, should be consumed only in very small amounts or avoided altogether. Processed foods should also be avoided as much as possible. They often contain high levels of trans fatty acids and a higher proportion of omega-6 fatty acids.