How did our ancestors get their omega-3?

The argument for the importance of omega-3 and specifically the ratio of omega-3 to omega-6 often mentions our hunter-gatherer ancestors.

Since human species mostly evolved in African savanna, I don't understand how they got their omega-3. If it was from plant sources, then why are nutritionists today saying that plant sources are not enough?

Comments

  • @maxb

    You bring up a good point! What we know about ancient diets is that diverse groups of people survived eating very different diets. That said, it's always difficult (and perhaps, not practical) to base our recommendations off what our ancestors did since most of them died by the time they reached middle-age and the food that was eaten at that time is not available now.

    As a healthcare professional, I believe it's essential to have both omega 3 and omega 6, but there's still a lot of debate about the ideal ratio and honestly, in the grand scheme of a person's overall diet, I'm not sure how much this truly plays in disease outcome.

    I recently conducted a lit review of plant-based sources of omega 3 and what we know is that plant-eaters do not have equivalent levels of DHA/EPA vs. omnivores. However, research has yet to prove this is an issue as lower levels haven't been linked to disease risk. That said, we know DHA has an important role in developing and aging brains so supplementation with algae is recommended for young and older plant eaters.

    Hope this provides some clarification!

    Susan Macfarlane, MScA, RD
    Registered Dietitian Nutritionist
    cronometer.com
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