Big “Fat” Blog Post 2

It’s the moment you’ve all been waiting for… It’s time for the release of the second installment of the 3 part Big “Fat” Blog post!  We received lots of great comments last week and are looking forward to hear what you’ve got to say this time around.  Now, without further adieu we present – Big “Fat” Blog Post #2.  Enjoy!

If you haven’t seen it yet, check out Part 1 here


Question #1 – Answered By Elizabeth Legg, MS, RD

What is the difference between omega-3 (n-3) and omega-6 (n-6) fatty acids?


Last week we discussed the importance of the n-3:n-6 ratio.  So what’s happening under the hood when it comes to the balance of these fatty acids?  What physiological effects might we see with varying intakes of these essential fatty acids (EFA)?  When we study the difference between n-3 and n-6’s and their effects on the body, it’s necessary to look down stream at the signaling molecules they create. These signaling molecules, or eicosanoids, are a major function of these EFAs in the body.  Let’s follow one of each down their signaling cascade and see what they might do (but keep in mind this is just a peek at some of the biological effects of these EFAs).

Linoleic acid (LA) is an 18 carbon long n-6 with 2 double bonds (the first double bond located at the sixth carbon counting from the methyl end of the molecule).  It’s an essential fat that is easily obtained from the diet (many sources from vegetable oils and nuts to meat and eggs).  LA undergoes a series of reactions resulting in the production of metabolites (gamma linolenic acid, dihomo-gamma-linolenic acid, and arachidonic acid).  These metabolites are involved in production and/or regulation of other fatty messenger molecules belonging to the eicosanoid family (prostaglandins, leukotrienes, and tromboxanes to name some of the biggies).   These chemicals are vital for regulating normal inflammation and homeostatic functions in the body, however when over produced can exacerbate inflammatory diseases or predispose one to systemic inflammation (which is what we see with typical Western diets heavy on the n-6, light on the n-3).

On the other hand, we have the example of Eicosapentaenoic Acid (EPA).  A 20 carbon long n-3 with 5 double bonds (the first double bond located at the third carbon counting from the methyl end of the molecule).  EPA is obtained in the diet from eating fatty fish (wild salmon, sardines, trout, mackerel, herring, and cod liver are all rich sources).  It should be noted that EPA can be derived from alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) from flax and other plant sources; however this conversion rate is quite small making EPA a much more potent precursor for the anti-inflammatory eicosanoids.  The metabolic pathway of EPA to the anti-inflammatory eicosanoids is similar to that of the n-6 family.  These pathways compete for the same desautrase and elongase enzymes; therefore excessive intake of n-6 will hog the resources and lead to a more inflammatory profile (remember the importance of the n-3:n-6 ratio).  We want to stimulate the n-3 pathway as it may decrease inflammation, the risk for chronic disease (like diabetes, cancer, arthritis, obesity, and cardiovascular disease), and improve mental health.  Want to know more about why n-3s are so important?  Stay tuned for next week with part 3!

Question #2 – Answered By Amy Kubal, MS, RD, LN 

Are the n-6’s that are typically found in grain-fed beef somehow different than those found in vegetable oils? If so, is one type of n-6 better or worse than the others?


When comparing the fatty acid profiles of grass-fed and grain-fed beef it’s easy to see why the pasture grazers are the best choice.  The ratio of Omega-6 (n-6) to Omega-3 (n-3) fatty acids is around 20:1 in grain-fed animals while in grass-fed it’s about 3:1.  The ultimate goal is to achieve a n-6:n:3 ratio of 1:1 this makes the choice a no-brainer!  Unfortunately getting a hold of grass-fed meat isn’t always financially or geographically possible.  There are 11 different n-6 fatty acids.  The most prominent being Linoleic Acid (LA, 18:2), it is the shortest chain polyunsaturated fatty acid (PUFA) and is abundant in vegetable oils.

Grain-fed beef contains a mix of saturated, monounsaturated, and both n-6 and n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids.  While differences between the n-6 PUFA’s found in grass-fed beef, grain-fed beef, and vegetable oils are minimal; the amounts they contain vary greatly (as illustrated in the chart below).  In the end the dose is of greatest importance as the goal is to minimize the amount of dietary n-6 PUFA in favor of n-3 PUFA.  Which is worse?  You be the judge!  I’ll give you hint – the worst choice never mooed.

Big FAT Comparison Chart

Fat Type

(1 Tablespoon)









Beef Tallow 6.4 5.4 0.5 0.0
Lard (Pork Fat) 5.0 5.8 1.4 0.0
Chicken Fat 3.8 5.7 2.6 0.0
Butter 7.2 3.3 0.5 0.0
Coconut Oil 11.8 0.8 0.2 0.0
Olive Oil 1.8 10 1.2 0.0
Safflower Oil 0.8 10.2 2.0 0.0
Flaxseed Oil 1.3 2.5 10.2 0.0
Canola Oil 0.9 8.2 4.1 0.0
Margarine (tub) 2.0 5.2 3.8 0.5
Corn Oil 1.7 3.3 8.0 0.0
Soybean Oil 2.0 3.2 7.8 0.0
Sunflower Oil 1.4 2.7 8.9 0.0
Peanut Oil 2.3 6.2 4.3 0.0
Sesame Oil 1.9 5.4 5.6 0.0
Source: USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference.  Release 21

Question #3 – Answered By Stephanie Greunke, RD

Is the saturated fat found in coconut oil the same saturated fat that is contained in meat?


There are two methods of classifying fatty acids.  The first is based on the level of saturation (saturated, monounsaturated, and polyunsaturated) and the second is based on the molecular size/length of the carbon chain.  Coconut oil is composed of about 90% saturated fat and predominately consists of medium-chain fatty acids.  Lauric acid, the major fatty acid found in coconut oil, has a vast number of health benefits including anti-microbial and anti-fungal properties.  The majority of saturated fats from meat are long chain fatty acids that are both saturated and unsaturated.  They include saturated fats such as palmitic acid, stearic acid, and myristic acid.  Saturated fat coming from animal sources contain more monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, so the oxidation of the fats and n-6:n-3 ratio becomes more of a concern.  Coconut oil is very stable under heat due to its high saturated fat level.  Due to the grain-feeding of animals in the U.S., the saturated fat found in animal meat is abnormally high. Try to stick with grass fed meat whenever possible.  Also make sure you stick with organic virgin coconut oil and stay away from the refined types!

Big ‘FAT’ Blog Post part 3 >


Categories: General, Paleo Diet Basics, Paleo/Low Carb, Weight Loss


Robb Wolf’s 30 Day Paleo Transformation

Have you heard about the Paleo diet and were curious about how to get started? Or maybe you’ve been trying Paleo for a while but have questions or aren’t sure what the right exercise program is for you? Or maybe you just want a 30-day meal plan and shopping list to make things easier? Then Robb Wolf’s 30 Day Paleo Transformation is for you.


    • Amy Kubal says

      It’s along the same lines as flax oil – yes, it has some omega-3’s but not the very long chain variety and it comes with a good bit of omega-6 too. Once and a while it’s fine, but don’t rely on it exclusively!

      • says

        This is what I have heard. Less sustainable. It’s readily available from amazon. I’ll try it soon but will continue to buy coconut oil much more frequently. Thanks for your response!

  1. Michal says

    You seam to imply that saturated fat is bad.

    “Also make sure you stick with organic virgin coconut oil and stay away from the refined types!”

    Why? Is expeller pressed bad for you?

    • Tracy says

      I am also curious about this. I purchased some organic expeller pressed coconut oil from whole foods recently. Is this refined coconut oil acceptable?

    • Stephanie says

      I did not mean to imply that saturated fat is bad in the slightest. There is nothing wrong with expeller pressed oils. I was highlighting that unrefined coconut oil is a better choice than the refined types. Unrefined coconut oil does not undergo any chemical processing (refined does), has a better nutrient profile, and does not undergo high heat processing (refined does). I hope that clears up some of the confusion!

  2. Travis says

    Sorry, but I don’t get the chart. We want high n-3 and low n-6, but the chart doesn’t break it out like that. Sesame oil has 5.6 g PUFA, but what is the composition? If it were 5g of n-3 and .6g of n-6 it would be the best thing ever.

    • Amy Kubal says

      Travis, all seed and/or vegetable based oils are going to pack a heavy dose of omega-6’s. Additionally, there is no plant source of the very long chain omega-3 fatty acids that are found in wild caught fish, grass-fed cattle and algae. Sesame oil is one of the worst omega-6 offenders!

    • Jake says

      I agree with Travis that the chart is not useful in accounting for the n-6 and n-3 composition of the fats. But that is what you get from the USDA National Nutrient Database. That chart was most likely assembled with the intent to let people know which fats do not contain Trans Fat. Does anyone know if there is a chart comparing the actual amount of n-6 and n-3 in different forms of fat?

      • Amy Kubal says

        I was able to find this – listed is the food/oil and the Omega 6:Omega 3 ratio. Keep in mind that these are plant sourced omega 3’s (ALA) as opposed to the more beneficial very long chain animal sourced omega 3’s.
        Flaxseeds 1:4, flaxseed oil 1:4, chia seeds 1:3, camelina oil 1:2, canola oil 2:1, English walnuts 4:1 – 5:1, walnut oil 5:1, soybean oil 7.5:1, black walnuts 10:1

        And here’s the difference in the n:3 types –

        Alpha-linolenic acid (ALA). ALA is found predominantly in plant sources such as flaxseeds, hemp seeds, walnuts and dark green leafy vegetables. This short-chain fatty acid is considered essential because the body doesn’t produce it on its own. ALA can be converted into other long-chain omega-3’s (EPA and DHA). But studies have found that the conversion rate is dismally low. Only about 1% of ALA is converted to EPA and negligible amount is turned into DHA. ALA conversion is even lower if your intake of omega-6 fats is high. A more direct and efficient way to boost your levels of long-chain omega-3 fats is by taking EPA and DHA-rich foods or supplements.

        Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA). EPA is a long-chain omega-3 fatty acid found in oily fish, grass-fed meats, and certain algae such as spirulina. EPA is converted into hormone-like substances (prostaglandins) by the body to regulate cell activity and maintain cardiovascular function. The anti-inflammatory properties of EPA and DHA, have been backed by numerous studies, ranging from keeping blood cholesterol levels and depression in check, to stroke and cancer prevention.

        Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). DHA is another long-chain omega-3 found in fatty fish, grass-fed meats and some algae. It is the predominant omega-3 fatty acid in the brain and retina, and is essential for proper brain, eye, and nerve function. Low levels of DHA have been associated with Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.

        Hope this helps!!

    • Eric Schenck says

      I agree Travis, that chart isn’t complete enough to make the assessment that is being implied (and we know to be true). Would be nice to see the actual breakdowns of the PUFAs to be able to make the judgment.

  3. says

    Although it may be a bit more expensive and inconvienient at times, I think this should convince people it is time to make a change: “The ratio of Omega-6 (n-6) to Omega-3 (n-3) fatty acids is around 20:1 in grain-fed animals while in grass-fed it’s about 3:1”

    Very fun read. Excited for part 3!

  4. Chris says

    You mentioned to stay away from refined coconut oils. Could you elaborate a little on this? What makes refined a worse choice than the unrefined?

  5. Jeff says

    Another great post! All of this, plus the fact that vegetable oils make you feel gross too. If I get a big blast of soybean oil at say a Thai restaurant (which I sometimes can’t resist), I feel horrible! The stuff I make at home with coconut oil is much better. Any tips at finding palm oil? They don’t carry it at our Whole Foods, which surprises me a little.

    • Amy Kubal says

      I’m not sure that this is a lab test that they run in clinical settings – there are some test at home kits, but I would question the validity and reliability of the results. Also, a test is not necessary – just choose your foods wisely and if you aren’t getting wild caught fish or grass-fed meats invest in a supplement. As far as blood labs – look at the standard stuff and request an LDL classification test. In the body omega-6’s are pro-inflammatory, your overall health and inflammatory state are good indicators of your omega balance.

      • says

        Oh, ok. Thanks. Yes, I only eat grass-fed beef (I bought a quarter steer from a local farmer), and I only buy wild caught fish. I’m looking into buying a pasture raised pig half too.

        I was hoping that there was a reliable clinical test to make sure I’m on the right track in terms of the n-3/n-6 proportions.

        How can you know then (outside of guessing due to diet) that you have a 1:2 or 1:1 proportion? There has to be something accurate out there.

  6. rich says

    Hi – Thanks for this article… what is the rationale behind this statement?

    “Also make sure you stick with organic virgin coconut oil and stay away from the refined types!”

    Sometimes that coconut-y taste doesn’t go with whatever I’m cooking, and in these cases I like to use refined coconut oil, which is flavorless. How much of a problem is that? Thanks!

  7. Miles Miller says

    i see you are promoting Coconut Oil alot but in the book/guide olive oil, is olive a good choice, or is coconut oil the number one choice? What about rendering animal fats?

    • Amy Kubal says

      Olive oil works too – but coconut oil contains medium chain triglycerides that olive oil does not. Also olive oil is rich in monounsaturated fats which are more neutral/potentially inflammatory than the fats in coconut oil. I tend to use coconut oil for cooking and olive oil for salad dressings – mix it up!

  8. Julie says

    “Due to the grain-feeding of animals in the U.S., the saturated fat found in animal meat is abnormally high.”

    Can you please clarify this? Do you mean grain-fed meat is abnormally high in saturated fat? If so, are you talking about the ratio of saturated to unsaturated, or the total amount of fat as compared to grass-fed?

    • Amy Kubal says

      It’s primarily the total fat content. Grass fed meat is lower in overall fat and the n:6 to n:3 ratio in grass fed is closer to 1:1 and grain fed 15-20:1. Grass fed beef tends to be anywhere from 30-70% lower in saturated fat than grain fed beef. It is going to depend on the cut. If grass-fed is not in your budget select lean cuts of meat to minimize the omega-6 load and supplement with omega-3’s. Remember that saturated fat is not ‘evil’ and some is perfectly healthy!

  9. says

    Amy thanks for the continued series. This is turning into a little bit of a hot topic which is good in that it gets people thinking about it more but the biochem can get a little complicated (if we let it), unfortunately there’s a fairly high vocab/lingo and mechanism familiarity ‘buy in’ to get folks caught up enough to take the conversation where some of the questions want to steer things (again not a bad thing per se but probably deeper than than scope of what the post seems intended to cover).

    My suggestion to some of the readers posting questions is to try and give Chris Masterjohn’s (he recentlty spoke at the Ancestral Health Symposium I believe,lipd discussion on Chris Kressler’s podcast from a while back on it (he gives a very good background before diving into the topic, and he’s supposed to be coming back soon for a ‘part 2’)

    also, it will help to be familiar with the ‘language’ of lipd biochemistry (mechanistic understanding not as much but at least know what some of these terms mean since they can eventually make their way into the explanations people seem to be looking for) acids

    and one more this one comes in very handy once you have a grasp of the ‘lingo’

    Thanks again for your work, looking forward to future updates.

  10. musajen says

    I find the chart very helpful at a glance. It pretty quickly tells me that animals are better sources of fat if I’m trying to watch my polyunsaturated fat intake, particularly n-6. If it’s higher in polunsaturates, I can easily surmise it’s going to be higher in the n-6 variety, especially when delving into the vegetable oils.

    Avoid vegetable oils, get most of my fat from leaner cuts of meat or grass-fed meats, enjoy some wild-caught salmon regularly, and supplement some omega 3’s. Easy peasy.

  11. says

    Hey Robb I have an unrelated question, I would like to know your opinion, when you get a chance, on this website. (Work safe)I was
    pointed to it by family who wanted to know my opinion. It is not in my scope though, they are two girls in Reno Nevada whom are very sick, obviously, yet are put on a strict vegan diet. I live locally in Sparks but would prefer someone with more experience to touch base on this.

    I believe it is your wifes families hometown so it might be of interest.

    • says

      Nicki’s dad lives in Reno but it’s not where they are from.

      It’s a terrible genetic disease but I do nto see any indications of aan epigenetic trigger like what we see in porphyria or Huntingtons.

  12. Mary says

    So what is the deal with avacados? I hear that they are high in Omega 6 fatty acids. It seems very hard to get the right amount of Omega 3. It seems like all sources of Omega 3 are just as high if not higher in Omega 6.

    • Amy Kubal says

      Avocado is primarily monounsaturated fat. It is also high in fiber and makes a great substitution for high n:6 condiments like mayo. And while sources of n:3 also often contain a good amount of n:6 it is all about the ratio. Eating something with both n:3 and n:6 is going to be much better than eating something with no n:3 and all n:6.

  13. Ian Barry says

    Hi Stephanie and Amy

    Thanks for the great post realy appreciate the work you guys do supporting Roband spreading the word :-)
    Had a question, in the fisrt part of the post you mention MTC do not require Bile for digestion would this make them a suitable recomendation for people who have had thier Gall Bladder removed?


  14. apollos says

    seems like a diet super low in fat period while supplementing fish oil would be the easiest most affordable way to have a good n6 n3 ratio

  15. Scott R says

    Amy, great post. However Can you clarify this part:

    “The majority of saturated fats from meat are long chain fatty acids that are both saturated and unsaturated. They include saturated fats such as palmitic acid, stearic acid, and myristic acid. Saturated fat coming from animal sources contain more monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats”

    You’re saying that the ‘saturated’ fats are saturated AND unsaturated? And again ‘saturated’ fats from animals contain mono/polyUNsaturated fat?

    Can saturated fat be both Sat and Un Sat? I’m confused.

    • Amy Kubal says

      Scott, I think what Stephanie means is that the fat in meats is a mix of saturated, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated.

    • Sam says

      Seriously. This article is not clear. I really liked the first one though so I’m hoping the third installment gets better. In addition to what you pointed out I have a problem with:

      * Before the chart a question is asked that never gets answered.
      * The 3rd question is answered but the author never says if either is bad for you.
      * The last line about virgin coconut oil comes out of nowhere and is not substantiated by anything.

      I’m not saying any of the information is wrong, just that it doesn’t do a good job of informing the reader.

  16. marc says

    Hi Amy,
    I can’t find the other topic/questions in the “Big fat blog Post 2.” Are you addressing intermittent fasting?

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