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Omega 6 in nuts, and Inflammation

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  • Omega 6 in nuts, and Inflammation

    I've eaten a significant amount of nuts before. (walnuts, almonds, pecans, etc.)

    In the primal diet, it seems as though a small amount of nuts is considered a good snack.

    Walnuts, however, have around 10 grams of omega 6 per ounce of nuts. This number is enormous. The omega 6 to omega 3 ratio is decent for a non-fish food, but the sheer quantity of omega 6 makes it such that it's nearly impossible to get enough omega 3 during that day to get a reasonably low omega 6 to omega 3 ratio. It basically means, if you eat an ounce of walnuts, your omega 6 to omega 3 ratio is going to be mediocre that day regardless of what you eat or what supplements you take.

    Almonds have less omega 6, but still quite a bit, and virtually no omega 3. The same for pecans, too.

    Macadamia nuts seem like one solid exception; not much omega 6.

    But some of these nuts are listed as anti-inflammatory on the site I use for data. So my questions are:

    1. Even if nuts have a fairly nutritious profile in most ways, does the omega 6 content of almonds, pecans, and especially walnuts, make them not worthwhile to eat?

    2. What makes these nuts anti-inflammatory even though they have rather substantial omega 6 to omega 3 ratios? Walnuts are mildly inflammatory, but not very much compared to what I'd expect from their huge omega 6 content, and the other nuts are anti-inflammatory despite having a significantly bad omega 6 to omega 3 ratio. The same can be said for avocados (that they are anti-inflammatory despite having significant amounts of omega 6 compared to omega 3, although not nearly as striking as walnuts). Is the fact that they are anti-inflammatory for some other reason enough to mitigate walnuts huge effects on a person's omega 6 to omega 3 ratio?

  • #2
    I would like to know more about nuts as well.

    I've actually quit eating most nuts except for raw macadamia nuts. They're pricey, but totally worth it. Also, I think they taste better than any other kind of nut. The raw ones are so juicy and fresh!

    M for MIGHTY.
    **Food and Meows**

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    • #3
      First off, are you going by the inflammation rating on NutritionData.com? That has generally been dismissed around here; an imbalanced or excessive PUFA load is going to be inflammatory, period.

      Second, I would argue that there is no good snack. Ideally, one should be eating two or three solid meals a day, and nothing between. A few nuts as a condiment for one of these meals shouldn't be problematic - given that you are being somewhat conscious about your omega ratio, taking fish oil, etc - however, the nutritional value of nuts and seeds is arguable.

      A lot of them also contain phytic acid, the same anti-nutrient found in grains and legumes that will inhibit mineral absorption. There are much better sources of both fat and protein, in my opinion. If you enjoy nuts: as I said above, you can consciously enjoy them in the correct context. But be aware of what they contain, and which are better/worse. Personally I wouldn't eat walnuts, but I will have macs or almonds from time to time, maybe once or twice a month.

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      • #4
        I'm not sure what the answer is, but my body hates nuts...Always have, so for me I won't eat them too much.
        Stephanie

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        • #5
          Originally posted by raney View Post
          First off, are you going by the inflammation rating on NutritionData.com? That has generally been dismissed around here; an imbalanced or excessive PUFA load is going to be inflammatory, period.
          Yes, I've been going by that as an approximation. That site also shows omega 6 to omega 3 ratios since it lists the amount in mg in a serving, so when I see a high omega 6 to omega 3 ratio, and it's market as inflammatory, that makes sense to me. In a few instances, like almonds or avocados, I see a food with significantly more omega 6 than omega 3, and it's marked as anti-inflammatory, and I wonder if I'm missing a variable in this whole inflammation concept.

          Do you recommend a different site for checking inflammation and/or omega 3 and omega 6 numbers in foods?

          Second, I would argue that there is no good snack. Ideally, one should be eating two or three solid meals a day, and nothing between. A few nuts as a condiment for one of these meals shouldn't be problematic - given that you are being somewhat conscious about your omega ratio, taking fish oil, etc - however, the nutritional value of nuts and seeds is arguable.

          A lot of them also contain phytic acid, the same anti-nutrient found in grains and legumes that will inhibit mineral absorption. There are much better sources of both fat and protein, in my opinion. If you enjoy nuts: as I said above, you can consciously enjoy them in the correct context. But be aware of what they contain, and which are better/worse. Personally I wouldn't eat walnuts, but I will have macs or almonds from time to time, maybe once or twice a month.
          I don't particularly like nuts or dislike nuts. I ate them because, at the time, I figured the mix of fat and protein was good. When I started paying attention to omega 6, I reconsidered that.

          So I get curious when I see someone, such as the author of this site even, say a small handful of nuts is good, when there are tons of omega 6 in there (except for macadamia and maybe a few others). It seems to me that for anyone looking to keep omega 3 to omega 6 ratios as close to 1 as possible, walnuts would be a complete avoid food.

          And I also am curious if there are other variables involved in inflammation when it comes to nutrition besides the omega 6 to omega 3 ratio. (Exercise I've read is another variable, but I mean strictly in terms of food content here.)

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          • #6
            Originally posted by MARS. View Post
            And I also am curious if there are other variables involved in inflammation when it comes to nutrition besides the omega 6 to omega 3 ratio. (Exercise I've read is another variable, but I mean strictly in terms of food content here.)
            Ultimately I think it all boils down to that, except perhaps in the case of allergens. Sugar (sweeteners, grains, alcohols, etc) is the other compound that I would argue is directly inflammatory - and the method of inflammation from sugar consumption has to do with insulin's impact on the bad eicosanoid levels, which are derived from the oxidation of omega 6. High insulin can also lead to elevated arachidonic acid levels, which is what linoleic acid (omega-6) directly breaks down into.

            Originally posted by MARS. View Post
            Do you recommend a different site for checking inflammation and/or omega 3 and omega 6 numbers in foods?
            No, and there's nothing wrong with Nutrition Data for the raw numbers; I just don't buy into their "inflammation scale" rating. It seems to often be skewed.

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            • #7
              For anyone saying to avoid nuts, can you produce any study that even suggests nuts are bad for you in any way? And on the off chance that you do find one, I bet that you will find at least 20 that suggest the opposite. Some of you can be so narrow minded.

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              • #8
                I use almond flour, coconut flour and flaxseed meal in most of my baking. I don’t eat baked goods everyday, maybe once a week and otherwise have the occasional handful of nuts, sometimes mixed nuts, sometimes macadamia nuts, sometimes almonds. I was curious about this very thing, as so many in the paleosphere gasp at using eating nut or using nut flours. Always citing the O6:O3 ratio and oxidation as well as inflammation. I started doing some research myself, had my O6:03 levels tested (along with a rather lengthy blood panel measuring cholesterol, CRP, IL6, etc.) and had a lengthy e-mail exchange with Dr. Doug Bibus one of the top Omega 3 experts in the world. Conclusion, my 06:03 ratio is better than 1:1 and I have very low/no inflammatory markers. So for me, my nut consumption is not harming my health or my weight.
                My Blog: Healthy Living How To
                sigpic

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                • #9
                  I'm confused. I thought walnuts were the highest of any nut in omeg 3? Let me know if I'm mistaken because I've been using walnut oil daily for the purpose of raising my intake of 3.

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                  • #10
                    Originally posted by JessiMR View Post
                    I'm confused. I thought walnuts were the highest of any nut in omeg 3? Let me know if I'm mistaken because I've been using walnut oil daily for the purpose of raising my intake of 3.
                    That's correct as far as I'm aware.

                    They are rather high in Omega 3 (ALA, not EPA or DHA). But they're four times higher in Omega 6. That's not normally a horrible ratio by any stretch, but the absolute numbers end up being so large that pretty much regardless of what one eats the rest of the day, they'll have a mediocre omega 6 to omega 3 ratio, to the extent that that's even important. For instance, if you eat 1 oz of Walnuts, and get 10 grams of omega 6, you'd have to get an additional 8 grams of omega 3 that day (plus enough to match all the rest of your omega 6 intake, so it could be more like 12-15 grams) to get a 1:1 ratio (you'd basically have to eat pounds of Salmon, or gorge on fish oil supplements like they are candy). If one aims for a higher ratio, it's more reasonable.

                    Basically the point, and the question, is that 1 oz of Walnuts gives you more omega 6 than the rest of the foods combined you'll eat for the rest of the day.
                    Last edited by MARS.; 12-10-2011, 08:57 AM.

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                    • #11
                      Originally posted by Vanessa120 View Post
                      I use almond flour, coconut flour and flaxseed meal in most of my baking. I don’t eat baked goods everyday, maybe once a week and otherwise have the occasional handful of nuts, sometimes mixed nuts, sometimes macadamia nuts, sometimes almonds. I was curious about this very thing, as so many in the paleosphere gasp at using eating nut or using nut flours. Always citing the O6:O3 ratio and oxidation as well as inflammation. I started doing some research myself, had my O6:03 levels tested (along with a rather lengthy blood panel measuring cholesterol, CRP, IL6, etc.) and had a lengthy e-mail exchange with Dr. Doug Bibus one of the top Omega 3 experts in the world. Conclusion, my 06:03 ratio is better than 1:1 and I have very low/no inflammatory markers. So for me, my nut consumption is not harming my health or my weight.
                      I've seen different numbers for what one should aim for in 6:3 ratios. Some say lower than 4:1. Others try for 1:1. If one is only aiming for, say, 4:1, then an ounce of nuts shouldn't make that difficult to achieve. If one is aiming for 2:1 or 1:1, then nuts make that difficult, especially walnuts.

                      I'd be interested in hearing what people think the best ratio is for most people. There may be some point where, below that, there are diminishing returns, like 4:1 or 3:1 or something.

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                      • #12
                        Originally posted by jimhensen View Post
                        For anyone saying to avoid nuts, can you produce any study that even suggests nuts are bad for you in any way? And on the off chance that you do find one, I bet that you will find at least 20 that suggest the opposite. Some of you can be so narrow minded.
                        I haven't seen anyone in here say nuts are bad for you. I'm not really sure where narrow-mindedness enters into it at all. By the way Jim, nice to meet you. I'm Matt.

                        But the question is, with their high omega 6 levels, are they worth eating? If inflammation is unhealthy, and if a high omega 6 to omega 3 ratio is the cause of inflammation, then the question is, do walnuts with their 10 grams of omega 6 per oz have a place in a person's diet?

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                        • #13
                          Originally posted by MARS. View Post
                          I haven't seen anyone in here say nuts are bad for you. I'm not really sure where narrow-mindedness enters into it at all. By the way Jim, nice to meet you. I'm Matt.

                          But the question is, with their high omega 6 levels, are they worth eating? If inflammation is unhealthy, and if a high omega 6 to omega 3 ratio is the cause of inflammation, then the question is, do walnuts with their 10 grams of omega 6 per oz have a place in a person's diet?
                          That line of thinking is what is wrong with nutrition. I can do it too. Eggs are bad for you because eggs have saturated fat and cholesterol, and saturated fat and cholesterol raise cholesterol in the blood, and cholesterol in the blood causes heart attacks. Eggs are bad. Do you see how that type of thinking is counterproductive? You could say that the "facts" I used to state that eggs are bad are debatable, which is absolutely true, but so is your logic with nuts. If everything you said was true then nuts would surely be correlated with heart disease and other problems relating to inflammation, right? But the opposite is true.

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                          • #14
                            Originally posted by jimhensen View Post
                            That line of thinking is what is wrong with nutrition. I can do it too. Eggs are bad for you because eggs have saturated fat and cholesterol, and saturated fat and cholesterol raise cholesterol in the blood, and cholesterol in the blood causes heart attacks. Eggs are bad. Do you see how that type of thinking is counterproductive? You could say that the "facts" I used to state that eggs are bad are debatable, which is absolutely true, but so is your logic with nuts. If everything you said was true then nuts would surely be correlated with heart disease and other problems relating to inflammation, right? But the opposite is true.
                            Consider the details and consider the relative situation.

                            -Do you have a study that shows adding nuts to a diet that already has a rather low omega 6 to omega 3 ratio is healthy? Would increasing the ratio from 2:1 to, say, 3:1, be an improvement in health, a reduction in health, or no effect?

                            -I'm sure you have studies showing that if you replace some calories from a typical American diet that has, say, a 20:1 ratio of omega 6 to omega 3 with walnuts that have a 4:1 ratio, or some other nuts that pack a lot of nutrition, then you'll see improvement in health. I don't contest that. This thread wasn't directed at that.

                            Here's a study I haven't purchased yet, but the abstract is interesting regarding some optimal ratios of omega 6 to omega 3 for certain conditions.
                            ScienceDirect - Biomedicine & Pharmacotherapy : The importance of the ratio of omega-6/omega-3 essential fatty acids

                            The OP doesn't say nuts are bad for you, nor is it narrow minded. It's a question, looking for polite answers and discussion. For instance, does paying $8 every other week for a 6 oz bag of high quality organic walnuts or almonds add anything significant to a person's diet, or could it even slightly detract from it, if they're already eating tons of vegetables, healthy amounts of fish and organic meats, and have rather low omega 6 to omega 3 ratios, and considerable amounts of antioxidants and various nutrients?

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                            • #15
                              You could also buy these studies:

                              The role of dietary n-6 fatty ... [J Cardiovasc Med (Hagerstown). 2007] - PubMed - NCBI

                              Too much li... [Prostaglandins Leukot Essent Fatty Acids. 2008 Sep-Nov] - PubMed - NCBI

                              Which are both more recent than your study.

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