Hi Daniel, those are some interesting questions. There’s quite some research and activity on the topic and it’s quite complicated, so here’s a long answer.
The fats in Jake are chosen first and foremost to match the profile as provided with the most current guidelines.We always follow the scientific opinions from the European Food Safety Authority first, as that’s Europe’s highest authority on nutrition, and other scientific authorities second. But before we go into what they have to say about it, let’s get into some background.
Fats are one of the three macronutrients, next to protein and carbohydrates. That means that fats provide us with energy. But next to that, fats have many other roles in our body. There are many different fats. Some are to be avoided, and some are essential, meaning that we need them to survive and cannot produce them ourselves – so we need to get them through our diet.
Fatty acids can be classified according to their number of double bonds. Saturated fatty acids (SFA) have 0 double bonds, mono-unsaturated fatty acids (MUFA) have one double bond and poly-unsaturated fatty acids (PUFA) have 2 or more double bonds. PUFA are often divided between omega 6 and omega 3 PUFA. The aforementioned essential fats are all amongst omega 6 and omega 3.
Omega 6 and 3
There are a couple of omega 6 PUFA that our body can make itself, like arachidonic acid. But there’s 1 omega 6 PUFA that’s special: linolenic acid (LA). LA is essential. LA is converted to very important compounds that our body needs to function properly, by specific enzymes.
The same goes for omega 3 PUFA. There’s 1 omega 3 PUFA that is essential: α-linolenic acid (ALA). The same enzymes that convert LA into other important compounds, can convert ALA into other important compounds, like omega 3 PUFAs: DHA, EPA and DPA. DHA, EPA and DPA are so-called semi-essential fats: our body needs them. But only if our body can’t convert enough ALA into DHA, EPA and DPA itself, we need to get them directly from our diet.
The same enzyme systems that convert omega 6 (LA) into its final products, convert omega 3 (ALA) into its final products. But the enzyme systems are limitative and may be influenced themselves by the presence of both or either of omega 6 and 3. Therefore, secondary to the amount in which both are consumed, the ratio between omega 6 and 3 seems to matter.
Based on such findings, some of the nutrition authorities have recently set amounts as well as ratios in which omega 6 and 3 should be consumed. The amounts are generally about 5-10E% PUFA, of which about 1-2E% omega 3 PUFA. Secondary, the ratios may be important. Here’s what some of the most relevant authorities advise:
- Germany-Austria-Switzerland (D-A-CH, 2008): ratio of 5:1
- Nordic (NNR, 2004): ratio between 3:1 and 9:1
- France (AFSSA, 2001): ratio of 5:1
- United States (IOM): no ratio
- World (WHO/FAO): no ratio
The dietary reference values for omega 6 and omega 3 that the EFSA (2010) gives are the AI (Adequate Intake: basically, what you minimally need of a nutrient) of 4E% omega 6 LA, 0.5%E omega 3 ALA and 250mg EPA + DHA. The EFSA does not set a ratio for the PUFAs as there are insufficient data on clinical and biochemical endpoints in humans to recommend a ratio independent of absolute levels of intake [page 3,15].
So, we now know that (1) we need certain poly-unsaturated acids in our diet, (2) we have minimal intakes set by the EFSA and other useful reference intakes by other relevant authorities (3) some information about how the ratio may affect the workings of these nutrients. Based upon this, we’ve set the levels of omega 3 in Jake at about 2E% and worked with the most given ratio of 5:1.
It wouldn’t be a problem to change the ratio of 1:1, but the current state of science, when a ratio is given at all, provides the ratio of 5:1 for general purposes. This is also in line with the article you shared. Please note that it says that the optimal ratio may vary, based upon the disease under consideration. It even specifically mentions the ratio of 5:1 as most beneficial for patients with asthma.
The omega 6 in Jake comes from high oleic sunflower oil and the omega 3’s in Jake are for the biggest part provided by the omega 3 fat powder, which is a premium flaxseed oil. It’s first cold pressed and then in a gentle process freed of offending tastes and toxic substances (cyanogenic glucosides). It’s free of cholesterol (a type of fat we haven’t discussed) and has 55% ALA. The oils in Jake are stabilized through micro-encapsulation with maltodextrin as the carrier.
As if this answer isn’t long enough already, let’s get into the nitty-gritty of flaxseed oil! Jake provides about 5 grams of omega 3 per day (when taking three shakes), which is completely ALA. Our body doesn't convert ALA into EPA and DHA quite well, but the conversion rates are respectively about 10 - 20% and 0.5 - 9%, which results in a minimal amount of 500 mg DHA + EPA, up to 1.5 g DHA + EPA. Which is, in any case, more than sufficient, due to the relatively high amount of ALA in Jake.
If we look at the need of DHA specifically, and we take the low conversion of 0.5%, that would result in 25 mg DHA, which is well above the amount of up to 4 mg/day that our brains need (the primary place where DHA is needed in our body). Adding to that, it seems that our body can upregulate the production of DHA when needed and that e.g. vegans that solely eat ALA indeed have neurological disease rates as omnivores. Which is a very interesting feat on its own.
Hope you made it all the way here . I might turn this one into a blog.