Why is the American Diet Deficient in Omega 3 Fats?

Written by OmegaXL on May 9, 2014

Estimates in the US are that over 90 percent of adults are Omega-3 deficient. If you are a typical American, eating what has become a “typical American diet,” chances are you, and your family, are not getting enough essential Omega-3 fats. To wit, the 2005 US Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee stated that 70% of Americans are deficient in Omega-3 fatty acids, and since then the condition has only gotten worse. According to the Weston A. Price Foundation, 20% of Americans have blood levels of Omega-3 so low they cannot be detected.

With the overwhelming amount of evidence that proves the numerous health benefits of omega-3 fatty acids in the diet, compounded by the fact that omega-3 fats DHA and EPA are termed “essential fats” because the body needs them but can’t synthesize them, you’d think that, in of all places America, our diet would be rife with omega-3s. Especially considering that omega-3s DHA and EPA not only keep us healthy, but can also actually keep us alive.

Alive? Yes. A recent study from Harvard University in conjunction with the Center for Disease Control found that Omega-3 deficiency contributes to 96,000 deaths every year in the US. With such staggering statistics evincing such a staggering circumstance in a country seemingly well nourished, you can’t help but wonder how this deficiency could possibly exist.

Well, the answer is pretty simple. Part of the reason is because Americans typically do not eat enough fish, specifically, cold water, wild caught, oily fish such as salmon. To make matters worse, highly processed foods – high in the inflammatory omega-6 fats – are now common American fare. The deficiency in Omega-3 fats is one thing, but the elevated levels of Omega-6 fats make things worse.The body uses both omega-3 and omega-6 fats to synthesize important hormones the body needs. In the body’s quest for balance, those hormones have opposite effects. Those that are synthesized from omega-6 fats tend to increase inflammation – an important component of the immune system – while those from omega-3 fats decrease the inflammatory response. Both omega-3 and omega-6 fats must be in balance for optimum health. Unfortunately, according to some estimates, dietary intake of omega-6 fats out number omega-3s 25 to one.

Health studies worldwide indicate that the “Western diet,” typically lacking in oily fish that contain Omega-3 EPA/DHA and contain too many omega-6 laden grain-based products especially snacks, vegetable oils and grain-fed animal products, is probably responsible for a significant spike in several conditions related to poor cardiac and cardiovascular health and other conditions related to inflammation.