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Omega-6 to Omega-3 Ratio Influences Performance

by 5m Editor
24 November 2011, at 5:13am

CANADA - Research conducted by the Prairie Swine Centre suggests the ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids in the diet of the sow is of greater significance in influencing her reproductive performance than the actual amounts of the compounds, writes Bruce Cochrane.

As part of a series of studies to evaluate the value omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids, researchers with Prairie Swine Centre compared the performance of sows fed diets containing a 10 to 1, a 5 to 1 and a 1 to 1 omega-6 to omega-3 ratio and a 5 to 1 fish-oil-based diet over three reproductive cycles.

Laura Eastwood, a PhD Student with the University of Saskatchewan, explains omega-6 fatty acids are believed to be precursors for pro-inflammatory molecules in the body whereas omega-3 fatty acids are considered to be anti-inflammatory and while some studies suggest feeding omega-3 fatty acids can improve the sow's reproductive performance, others show the opposite so the thought is the ratio may be more important.

Laura Eastwood-Prairie Swine Centre

A typical gestation or lactation sow ration is going to have a ratio of about 20 or 25 to 1, that would be a corn-based diet which is very high in omega-6.

In a lot of research they include a small amount of omega-3 into that diet but we believe that because within the body the same pathways are shared to create the hormones that are formed from the omega-6 and the omega-3 fatty acids, if we have such a large amount of omega-6 it doesn't really matter if the omega-3s are included because they're just being washed out by the omega-6 fatty acids.

That's why we're focusing on actually shifting the ratio and reducing the omega-6 while we increase the omega-3.


Ms Eastwood says feed intake was highest at a 5 to 1 ratio but as the omega-6 to omega-3 ratio dropped too low or switched to a fish-based source, the sows consumed less feed which resulted in slower growth of the piglets.

She says the next step is to identify the optimum ratio to make sure producers are able to wean a larger healthier pig without negatively impacting the sow.

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