Omega 3 vs. Omega 6: What You Need To Know

Your eyes, along with the rest of your body, require both Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids for proper function. Our bodies, acting on their own, can’t internally produce these complex acids, which are called “polyunsaturated” because they feature multiple double bonds. And because we can’t make them on our own, our diet is the only source we have to acquire these crucial components of biological health, which is one reason a diet that simply cuts out fat altogether is a surefire way to make yourself less healthy.

The benefits of these types of fats are well-documented, as they have been shown to have an effect on minimizing heart disease, diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease, and many other conditions. In general, Omega-3s come from a variety of fish and oils, while Omega-6s come from things like beef and certain nuts.

Although both are required to run the human body, Americans in general consume far too many Omega-6 fatty acids as compared to Omega-3. A study in 2002 indicated that Americans consume over 15 times as much Omega-6 fatty acids than Omega-3; for optimal health, that ratio should be much lower. Experts differ, but in general none think the ratio should be any higher than 4:1. Prior to the industrial revolution, this was a much more common consumption ratio for the average consumer.

This is because Omega-3 acids are already in the form that the body uses, whereas Omega-6 acids must be broken down further before they become available for the body to use to repair and maintain its cells. Additionally, unmodified Omega-6 fats can increase inflammation throughout the body, as they usurp places designed for Omega-3s. In fact, decreasing Omega-6 consumption may accomplish the same effect as you could achieve by regularly taking an anti-inflammatory medication such as ibuprofen.

Many doctors report that improving the ratio of Omega-6 to Omega-3 consumption could have substantial effects on long-term outcomes for many conditions, from colorectal cancer to rheumatoid arthritis.

vegetable oil

To improve your Omega-6 to Omega-3 consumption ratio, a few simple steps can go a long way:

  1. Trade corn or vegetable oil for canola or flaxseed oil. Alarmingly, many have reported that soybean oil may account for up to 20% of the calories consumed by an average American. Yikes!
  2. Eat more fish, especially fatty fish like tuna or salmon. These fish are full of Omega-3s and are super yummy!
  3. Ditch margarine wherever possible, and stick with olive or coconut oil.
  4. Add walnuts and seeds to your snack bowl, instead of greasy chips.
  5. If you can’t make it happen with diet alone, a variety of supplements are out there that can improve your Omega-3 intake each day.

There you have it...let us know if you have any great recipes using the ingredients above. Just comment below!

One Love,

Dr. Jenna

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Travis Zigler on October 26 2016 at 07:32PM

@ Jimmy – Great question! Some of my favorite vegetarian foods packed with omega-3 are walnuts, chia seeds, and flaxseeds. You can mix the seeds into smoothies.

One Love,
Dr. Travis Zigler

Jimmy on October 26 2016 at 07:30PM

What is your favorite vegetarian food for omega-3?

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