Anti-Inflammatory Diet

All health care starts with diet. My recommendations for a healthy diet are here:
Anti-Inflammatory Diet and Lifestyle.
There are over 190 articles on diet, inflammation and disease on this blog
(find topics using search [upper left] or index [lower right]), and
more articles by Prof. Ayers on Suite101 .

Monday, September 8, 2008

Eating Rules -- Omega-3

Fish oils are anti-inflammatory and are most effective when other vegetable oils are avoided, but are eaten in a meal in which other fats stimulate bile production.

Omega-3 fatty acid rules:
  • Avoid vegetable oils in general -- corn is very bad, soy is bad and canola is not too bad
  • Only olive oil is acceptable
  • Flax oil is too short and still has omega-6 fatty acids -- most labeling is misleading
  • Saturated fat in butter and eggs is ok and safer than vegetable oil
  • More symptoms of inflammation means more fish oil supplements are needed
  • Take fish oil supplements with meals and preferably fatty foods to stimulate bile

Explanation: The omega-3 fatty acids that count are those that are essential, i.e. the body can’t make them, EPA (C20) or DHA (C22), or that can be produced from ALA (C18). EPA and DHA can be converted into anti-inflammatory prostaglandins by COX, the enzyme that is blocked by aspirin. COX also converts omega-6 fatty acids into inflammatory prostaglandins. Unfortunately the corresponding short omega-6 fatty acids block the elongation of the short omega-3 ALA. For this reason, supplementing most vegetable oils, that are rich in omega-6 oils, with even high levels of omega-3 fatty acids, will still leave the vegetable oils inflammatory. In most cases the only alternatives are eating more fatty fish than you would normally eat or fish oil supplements.

Most people have found that without any symptoms of inflammation two gram capsules per day of combined EPA-DHA fish oil meet requirements for health. Two more capsules should be added per day for obesity and two more for other symptoms of inflammation, e.g. arthritis, allergy, etc. Spread the supplements over multiple meals. Eating the fish oil with other fat-rich food will improve absorbance in the gut by stimulating the release of bile -- capsules on their own will just slip on past. I would recommend an empirical approach -- start with two capsules a day and see if your symptoms lessen within a week. If not, increase by two more capsules a day and monitor your symptoms. The severity of your inflammatory inputs will determine how much fish oil is required. Other sources of omega-6 oils will sabotage the anti-inflammatory benefits of the omega-3 fatty acids supplements. Saturated fats and cholesterol are not as much of a problem as the omega-6 fatty acids (and of course trans fats.)

Obesity is a particular problem, because the fat is a source of omega-6 fatty acids that were eaten when your diet was worse. You will continue to pay for previous dietary errors. For this reason, a diet rich in olive oil is helpful, because fat stored from this oil will be low in omega-6 fatty acids that could be troublesome in the future. This may be a significant component of the benefit of the Mediterranean diet.


Stipetic said...

These early posts are fascinating.

Concerning this post specifically, is it safe to say that it would be even more healthy to supplement with butter or coconut oil over olive oil? Thanks.

Dr. Art Ayers said...

I agree, butter and coconut oil are healthier than olive oil. Another problem with olive oil is that some processing introduces more of the omega-6 fatty acids from the olive seeds. It is hard to find information on the fatty acid composition of each brand of olive oil and they vary greatly.

Thanks for digging through these old posts.

Stipetic said...

I now live in Greece, so it's olive oil heaven--so many varieties. I'll have to look into the olive seed thing.

I wouldn't be surprised if all of the benefits of the "Mediterranean diet" falls all on olive oil's shoulders. It is used almost exclusively here for everything by everyone--seed oils are almost non-existent in households or supermarkets. Since Italy and Spain are the other top producers of olive oil, it's probably a similar situation there too.

Anonymous said...

I'm really enjoying your site, Doctor.

Do you know who Brian Peskin is?

He's a research scientist and has books on Amazon and a site that alerts people to the dangers of Omega 3 Fish Oils.

Can you please look at his videos online and tell us what you think?
He's so convincing, that's why we need your expertise to sort this out. THANK-YOU

Anna said...


Peskin is mistaken if he thinks that Harvard's large endowment prevents their nutrition researchers from being "bought". LOL

Dr. Art Ayers said...

I am familiar with Peskin's video. It doesn't seem convincing to me. It is kind of silly and doesn't actually analyze the studies that he cites. He just restates the conclusions of poorly constructed studies.

Analysis shows:
Saturated fats are the safest source of dietary calories.
Vegetable oils (omega-6 rich) are a major contributor to inflammation.
Fish oil is safe and effective in reducing inflammation.

Anna is correct that the gigantic endowments of major universities do not shield investigators from industry influence. As I have said before, the fish oil industry is tiny and has no influence compared to the major agribusiness and pharmaceutical industries that determine medical "research" results. There is a reason that biomedical articles do not cite the science literature and vice versa.

Thanks for questions/comments.

Anonymous guy in Texas said...

Jeez, man, thanks so much for this site. I really appreciate you and I know that many people all around the world feel the same way.

BR said...

Just a note to say that I am reading all your posts & comments from beginning to current. I want to enforce the comments of others, how helpful your posts are. I have AS & gluten troubles, but have been low carb for more than 20 years. At 70 years old most would say I am good shape for my age. However I think I can still improve my health.

Anonymous said...

Dr. Ayers. Thank you for the great post. I have one question for you. You state to start with two capsules of fish oil. How many milligrams should that be. I know you can individual capsules in varying amounts. Thanks in advance and keep up the amazing work.

matrixik said...


I have one more question:
do I really need to take capsules every day or maybe can I replace them with cod liver in natural cod liver oil like this one:

On the pack there is information that it have 14 grams of omega-3 in 100 grams of product so I could eat one pack per week instead of fish oil capsules everyday.

Leo said...

Than you for this information. I do have one question though. Are you familiar with Ray peat's work and his thoughts about "essential fatty acids" ? He thinks all the polyunsatured fats are harmful including omega 3. What do you think?

Blogger said...

Are you trying to make cash from your websites/blogs by popunder advertisments?
In case you are, have you ever used Clickadu?