Vegetable Oil and Depression

Results of a consumer survey were released last month by the International Food Information Council (IFIC). Survey researchers asked consumers question such as “How concerned are you with the amount of fat you are eating?”

72% of Americans are concerned with the amount of fat they consume.
Compared to one year ago, Americans are concerned that they are consuming too much saturated fat and they are actually seeking to consume more vegetable oil.

There is very little reason to consume more vegetable oil. In fact, to fight depression, research suggests we should be consuming less.

Research indicates that we can alleviate depression by increasing the Omega-3 fatty acids in our diets. In the IFIC survey, there was a slight increase in respondents who sought to consume more fish oil – the best source of this beneficial fat – but the increase was not statistically significant.

We should also be consuming less Omega-6 fat and reducing our overall ratio of Omega-6 to Omega-3. Ideal levels are somewhere between about four times the Omega-6 fatty acids (a ratio of 4 to 1) or equal amounts of the two fats (a ratio of 1 to 1).

The USDA provides data on the Omega-3 and Omega-6 content of vegetable oils. With that data I have generated a ratio of the two fats. I cut the scale at 100 to 1 even though some oils were well into the 200 to 1 range and beyond.

Only two vegetable oils fall into the ratio of less than 4 to 1 – flaxseed and canola. These data suggest that vegetable oil as a class may not be the optimum depression-fighting fat.
The ratio is not the only story, however. In the book Rebuild from Depression I discuss absolute levels of Omega 6 fatty acids as well. Oils such as olive and coconut do not have enough Omega 6 fatty acids (or Omega 3s) to worry much about busting your dietary ratio. I buy coconut oil for occasional frying and use olive oil liberally in salads and other dishes. Neither will hurt your Omega 3 balance.

6 Responses to Vegetable Oil and Depression
  1. Jen

    I don’t quite understand the chart. Is peanut oil one of the worst, along with coconut oil? Or is canola oil, along with walnut oil, the worst?

  2. Hi Jen. Sometimes I write these things too quickly. In terms of the Omega 6 to Omega 3 ratio, some oils will really help because of their high Omega 3 content — flax is the best example. Some will really hurt — peanut oil. Some won’t make much difference one way or another but you might want to eat for other properties — olive or coconut. For salads I like a mix of flaxseed and olive oil

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