What you need to know about omega 3 and 6 fats | Philip Calder, PhD

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If you follow a plant-based diet, chances are you’ve questioned whether you’re getting enough omega-3. Polyunsaturated fats are currently a highly contentious topic in online nutrition spaces, and in this episode, I sit down with Professor Philip Calder to unpack everything you need to know.

“Fatty acids are not all, by definition, bad. They have physiological impacts relative to one another.”

Professor Philip Calder is the Head of the School of Human Development and Health at the University of Southampton and an authority in the field of nutritional immunology. With over 20 years of research focusing on fatty acids, particularly the roles of omega-3 and omega-6, his expertise is unparalleled. Professor Calder has received numerous prestigious awards, including the Danone International Prize for Nutrition in 2016 and the Stephen S. Chang Award in 2023. He has also served in various leadership roles, including as President of the International Society for the Study of Fatty Acids and Lipids and the Federation of European Nutrition Societies. With over 800 scientific publications to his name, Professor Calder’s insights into fatty acids are unmatched.

“You shouldn’t wait for your body to break down to do something about it.”

In this informative conversation, we explore the complex science of how fatty acids operate within the human body. Professor Calder tackles common misconceptions, setting the record straight that not all fats are harmful and offering detailed advice on the roles of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. By the episode’s conclusion, you’ll know exactly how much of these crucial fats you should include in your diet, the best sources to obtain them, and why achieving the right balance is key for optimal health.

Specifically, we discuss:

  • Introduction (00:00)
  • Philip Calder’s Passion for Fatty Acids and His Background (02:00)
  • Debunking Major Fatty Acid Myths in Academia & Social Media (05:53)
  • Altering Cell Membrane Health Through Diet (11:14)
  • Understanding Essential Fats: Why are They Vital? (13:57)
  • Low Conversion Rates: From ALA to EPA & DHA Explained (18:08)
  • The Importance of Monitoring Omega 6 Intake (23:31)
  • The Link Between Omega 6 Fatty Acids and Inflammation (27:28)
  • Does Dietary Linoleic Acid Impact Arachidonic Acid? (35:23)
  • The Inflammatory Role of Arachidonic Acid (37:29)
  • Linoleic Acid & Its Inflammatory Effects (40:41)
  • Should Western Diet Adopters Reduce Omega 6 Intake? (43:56)
  • Major Omega 6 Food Sources and Their Alternatives (45:58)
  • Balancing Omega 3 & Omega 6: Impact on Inflammation (48:57)
  • Plant-Based EPA & DHA: The Genetic Modification Approach (52:04)
  • The Health Implications of Replacing Saturated Fat with Linoleic Acid (59:24)
  • Cardiometabolic Risks of Polyunsaturated Fats (1:03:55)
  • How Omega 3 & Omega 6 Influence Insulin Resistance (1:07:17)
  • Polyunsaturated Fats’ Effect on Blood Pressure (1:08:31)
  • The Long-Term Impact of Consuming Polyunsaturated Fats (1:12:05)
  • EPA & DHA Research Variance: Doses, Types, and Outcomes (1:15:40)
  • Ideal Omega 3 Levels for General Health (1:21:51)
  • Benefits of Plant-Based EPA & DHA Supplements (1:27:55)
  • Concerns with Low ALA Levels (1:30:17)
  • Absorption Efficiency of EPA & DHA Supplements (1:32:34)
  • The Science Behind Omega 3 Testing (1:34:28)
  • Algae Oil vs Fish Oil: Which is Superior? (1:36:36)
  • DPA Supplementation and Its Benefits (1:38:33)
  • Does DHA & EPA Supplementation Impact Cholesterol Levels? (1:40:34)
  • Potential Side Effects of DHA & EPA Supplements (1:42:03)
  • Conclusion (1:45:44)

This episode is an absolute game-changer for understanding the role of fatty acids in our health. A huge thank you to Professor Philip Calder for sharing his decades of research and knowledge with us. I’m confident that you’ll walk away from this episode with both a better understanding of the science behind this topic and actionable insights to support your long-term health.

Learn more about Professor Philip Calder and his work at southampton.ac.uk/people/5wzh2r/professor-philip-calder.

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Enjoy, friends.


More about Philip Calder BSc(Hons), PhD, DPhil, RNutr, FSB, FAfN

Philip Calder is Professor of Nutritional Immunology and Head of the School of Human Development and Health, Faculty of Medicine, University of Southampton. He is an internationally recognised researcher on a) nutritional immunology; b) the metabolism and functionality of fatty acids with an emphasis on the roles of omega-3 fatty acids. He has received many awards and prizes including the Normann Medal (German Society of Fat Science; 2009), ESPEN’s Cuthbertson Lecture (2012), the Ralph Holman Lifetime Achievement Award (American Oil Chemists’ Society; 2015), the prestigious Danone International Prize for Nutrition (2016), the DSM Lifetime Achievement Prize in Human Nutrition (2017), the European Lipid Science Award (2021) and the Stephen S. Chang Award (American Oil Chemists’ Society; 2023). He was President of the International Society for the Study of Fatty Acids and Lipids (2009-2012), Chair of the Scientific Committee of ESPEN (2012-2016), President of the Nutrition Society (2016-2019) and President of ILSI Europe (2019-2021). He is currently President of the Federation of European Nutrition Societies. He was Editor-in-Chief of the British Journal of Nutrition (2006-2013) and is currently Associate Editor of several journals and Co-editor of the Lipid metabolism and therapy section of Current Opinion in Clinical Nutrition and Metabolism. He has over 800 scientific publications and is listed as a Highly Cited Researcher.

Additional resources

  • Omega-3 fatty acids and inflammatory processes • PMID: 22254027
  • Omega-6 fatty acids and inflammation • PMID: 29610056
  • Pharmacology and therapeutics of omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids in chronic inflammatory disease • PMID: 24201219
  • Anti-inflammatory effects of a low arachidonic acid diet and fish oil in patients with rheumatoid arthritis • PMID: 12548439

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