PUFA's, the Primal Blueprint and Low Carb diets
It's sort of a funny thing in low carb circles. Atkins followers - or those who have fashioned their plans by tweaking Atkins - remain the majority of adherents to this lifestyle, despite the surging popularity of Paleo-styled plans.
I admit to not knowing or caring a thing about Omega 6 vs. Omega 3 and all that jazz until sometime in 2009 after I'd found the LC web. Atkins was a big fish oil pusher (if memory serves he had his own line of supplements) and fan of the O3, but he certainly didn't spend much time addressing the dreaded O6 fats. The root of all evil in the minds of many.
I have his original book, and many recipes contained good old fashioned industrial mayo made from soybean oil or other veggie oil. There was no shunning of veggie oils that's for sure, or commercial salad dressings containing them so long as no carbs went along for the ride down the gullet. Chicken may not have been as highly touted as the more luxurious ribeye, but it certainly had its place. And when climbing the rungs, nuts were big. Macadamias preferred, but not because of the O6:O3 ration, but because they happen to be the lowest in carbs. I just threw out an expired Atkins shake I used to use sometimes in place of cream in my coffee (mocha coffee, yum!) - sunflower oil! Let's not go into fats in the various "product" around, although many of the newer moose turd look-alike offerings no longer contain these in the name of paleolithic purity.
So last summer I think it was, I got involved in one (of the many) discussions on O6's and O6:O3 ratio over at Jimmy Moore's forum. You see, a lot of low carbers also find peanuts and peanut butter acceptable, and are even bigger fans of almonds. Almond meal is a hugely popular alternative "flour" amongst low carbers. One day I pointed out the O6 content of almonds. One ounce of almonds (unsalted dry roasted) contains just 5g total carb of which 3g are fiber = 2g net carb. While the ~3.5g PUFA is only around 25% of the fat in almonds, it is nearly entirely O6 with nary a balancing O3 to be had. (This is similar to the content of 1/4c. almond flour.)
So anyway, after reading Sisson's Definitive Guide to Fats we see he promotes the idea that paleo humans ate, as Eaton estimates, a 1:1 or 2:1 ratio. Here's how Sisson puts it:
Omega-3s are found primarily in fish, algae, flax and nuts. You also find good portions of them in eggs from chickens that are fed fish or flax meal. And you’ve heard us go on and on about the three forms: ALA (think flax) as well as EPA and DHA (think fish oil). Omega-3s aid circulation by naturally thinning the blood, fight systemic inflammation, support brain function and ease symptoms of depression, anxiety and even ADHD. (Nods of approval)
Now back to the ratio matter. Estimates vary, but experts generally characterize Western diets as anywhere between 10-30 parts omega-6 to 1 part omega-3 (10-30:1). What ratio should we be getting? What did our primal ancestors likely eat? Try 1:1. Although many in the establishment will try to tell you that 4:1 is good enough.
That last line reads to me as a note of disapproval for what the "mainstream" is trying to get away with. So ... let's look at Sisson's Sample Low Carb Menu. Sisson counts every carb in his non-starchy veggies (which I find pointless, and have since stint 2 on Atkins) in order to reach his total of 115 g for the day, but I'm going to focus on just his major fat sources. For breakfast, these include eggs, butter and cream. For lunch, olive oil, avocado and salmon. Almonds for a snack, and for dinner fats come from steak and coconut oil. So let's take a look at Sisson's sample menu using the fat gram totals from his analyses and nutritiondata.com's excellent fatty acid breakdowns to quantify the PUFA, O6, O3 contents and the O6:O3 ratios. Here's how the sample menu shakes out:
Seems that this diet would be high in those dastardly PUFA and the even more dastardly omega 6's by the standards of a certain doctor. Now I'm sure Sisson corrects his O6:O3 ratio with supplements but Grok didn't have fish oil capsules in his cold dark cave. But look down the absolute content columns and we realize that the cattle derived fats - grass fed or not - would not impact the overall PUFA content or the ultimate ratio very much, nor does the coconut oil. It's the top four items and the eggs that contribute the most to the outcome. Even those specially fed high O3 chicken eggs don't come close to meeting even a 4:1 ratio we're told is OK. Salmon is the only thing on his menu that pulls Sisson's PUFAss out of the omega 6 fire, and still his intake sans supplementation comes out almost 9% of his dietary fat calories. By his own analysis, PUFA (including the minor veggie sources) comprises 8% of his daily caloric intake for those days when he eats all meals and includes berries & wine after dinner.
But Sisson doesn't always eat salmon with his salad. Instead he may top his salad with roasted chicken. Let's see how this pans out:
WOWZERS! We're in SAD diet ratio danger zone here! (I used 6 oz. roasted chicken- mixed parts - with skin). OK, so how about if Sisson swaps out the steak for salmon? Twelve percent ... yes 12% ... dietary fat from that neolithic agent of disease in a paleolithic inspired diet? How about if Sisson decides to counter that chicken with salmon for dinner (I used 8 oz salmon for the 8oz ribeye).
We're still in danger zones here.
Avocados, eggs, olive oil and ghee (clarified butter) are all paleo friendly fats/foods. The only one that comes close on the ratio is the olive oil. Add in the almonds, you're going further south.
What about that chicken? Well, I don't have to tell you that while skinless chicken breast is shunned by high fattie low carbers, chicken wings are a favorite in the LC community. (Not to mention that when eaten out these are almost invariably served with soybean oil containing bleu cheese or ranch dressing/dip).
Now, I'm not sure what all this does to one's liver or diabetic predisposition, but we sure as heck can't blame the lowly PUFA for weight gain when so many successfully lose weight or maintain eating a lot of these fats.
Neolithic food for thought ....