Omega 6…The Devil’s Fat?

The September issue of The Cockermouth Post is available now at

Here’s my piece on Omega 6 (page 14).  It might surprise you.

I recently read a book with this arresting title. So is it true that omega 6 is bad enough to be called The Devil’s Fat? Well yes, I think it is, at least it is in the excessive quantities that people are eating these days.

Omega 6 is an essential fatty acid. That means our bodies cannot produce it and we have to get it from our food. The fact that it is an ‘essential’ fat has led to polyunsaturated fats being promoted (mainly by the vegetable oil industry) as healthy.

It is true that we need to eat some omega 6. The trouble is, as with so many things, that larger amounts of an essential nutrient are not better for us but actually bring major health problems. In nature, we would have got small amounts in the autumn from seeds and nuts. Our bodies have evolved to store this fat without limit, probably because it was so scarce.

In recent years, the intake of omega 6 fats has dramatically increased. Sources include:

  • vegetable oil used to cook fast food and takeaways

  • vegetable oil in ready meals, cakes, biscuits and pastries

  • vegetable oil used for home cooking

  • vegetable oil in ‘spreads’ promoted as healthy

  • factory farmed beef (meat and milk), pork and chicken (meat and eggs) fed on grain instead of grass

  • farmed salmon fed with grain instead of fish

Eating such large amounts of omega 6 is increasing what are now called ‘Western’ health conditions: obesity, diabetes, heart disease, arthritis, asthma, other inflammatory conditions plus mood changes making people more aggressive, impulsive, acquisitive and depressive.

Omega 3 (good fat) balances these effects. Historically, we would have had a plentiful supply from fish, which is available all year. We do not store omega 3. Now our omega 6:3 ratio is out of balance and we are suffering the consequences.

Top tip: Reduce your omega 6 intake.