Omega-6 fatty acids are an essential component of your diet. They are called essential fatty acids because your body can’t make them on its own, and you must get them from foods.
Before that, let’s take a look at what omegas in general mean.
What are Omegas?
Omegas are fats that are found in many different types of food that include fish oil, nuts, seeds and vegetable oils.
They’re important for maintaining your good health, especially when it comes to your heart disease and other illnesses.
What are Omega-6 Fatty Acids?
Omega-6 fatty acids are polyunsaturated fats that are found in foods such as corn oil, soybean oil, sunflower oil, safflower oil and peanut oil. These fats are also found in some meats, dairy products and eggs. You can find omega-6 fatty acids also in nuts and seeds.
Omega-6 fatty acid deficiency has been linked to a number of diseases, including cardiovascular disease, cancer, obesity and autoimmune disorders. In fact, omega-6 fatty acids are necessary for proper brain development and function.
Omega-6 may stimulate hair and skin growth, improve your metabolism, keep your reproductive system healthy and aid in your bone health.
According to the American Heart Association, adults should eat at least two servings of oily fish per week (about 6 ounces). This includes salmon, mackerel, herring, sardines, trout and albacore tuna.
There are several ways to increase them in your diet. You can add more foods with these fats into your meals, such as walnuts, flaxseed oil, soybean oil and canola oil. You can also take supplements containing omega-3 fatty acids, such as fish oil capsules.
Studies are inconclusive as to whether omega-6 fatty acids increase risk of heart disease. But research shows these fatty acids might lower the risk of your stroke or heart disease.
However, some studies seem to indicate that taking omega-6 fats in excess may lead to certain health issues.
According to a research study, there is a correlation between inflammation which causes tissue damage and higher dietary intake of omega-6.
Possible Uses of Omega-6 Fatty Acids
Nerve Pain (diabetic neuropathy)
A fewer studies indicate that consuming gamma linolenic acid (GLA) for a period of six months may reduce the symptoms of nerve pain in persons diagnosed with diabetic neuropathy. It works a way better for those who maintain their blood sugar levels than those who don’t.
Eczema (atopic dermatitis)
Initial studies have indicated the role of evening primrose oil (rich source of omega-6 fatty acids) in the reduction of the symptoms of eczema, but they were not conclusive enough.
Later studies on the role of EPO in the symptoms of eczema found no additional support to conclude that consuming omega-6 reduced the eczema symptoms. In conclusion, it is only your Doctor who may be able to decide for you the use of omega-6 as dietary supplements.
Studies differ in their analyses, but initial studies indicate that evening primrose oil (EPO) may be effective in reducing your pain, swelling and morning stiffness, but there are other studies that found no evidence to support these findings.
It is estimated that it takes one to three months for the EPO to take effect in the reduction of your arthritis symptoms. But it may not help you slow down the progression of your arthritis.
A single study found that women who consumed gamma linolenic acid (GLA) responded better to a particular drug for breast cancer than those who didn’t.
But research also indicates that diets rich in omega-6 might encourage breast cancer development.
Hypertension (High blood pressure)
Initial research studies indicate that omega-6 fatty acids might actually help lower blood pressure. Another study indicated that black currant oil played a role in the reduction of diastolic blood pressure.
Dietary Recommendation and Precautions
While daily recommended intake of omega-6 fatty acids has not been standardised due to inconclusive and conflicting data, you can follow certain general guidelines to be sure.
According National Institutes of Health, the recommended dietary allowances and adequate intakes per day for linoleic acid (type of omega-6 fatty acid) are as follows:
You may require higher intakes of omega-6 fatty acids only in the event of certain medical conditions such as arthritis, diabetes or eczema. But your Doctor will take a call on that, based on your requirements.
And, you must not take any omega-6 fatty acids supplements without consulting your Doctor.
If your consumption ratio of omega-6 fatty acids ranges between 5% and 10% of your daily calories it may be considered normal. But there is no enough data on the consumption of omega-6 fatty acids in larger quantities.
Sources of Omega-6 Fatty Acids
Refined vegetable oils and foods cooked in them contain high levels of omega-6 fatty acids. For example, processed foods that contain omega-6 fatty acids in high amounts also contain saturated and trans fats, so choose your food sources wisely. And, always read your nutrition facts label.
Let’s see some of the food sources that contain omega-6 fatty acids.
Foods rich in omega-6 must be eaten along with foods rich omega-3 for a well-balanced diet. Walnuts and flaxseeds are good examples of both these fatty acids.
Supplements and Interactions
We don’t have enough research data to confirm if omega-6 supplements are either harmful for your health or important dietary additions that can help.
You must consult your Doctor before consuming these supplements.
We currently have no information for omega-6 fatty acids interactions.
While there is no definitive information on possible interactions of omega-6 fatty acids with your other medications, you must consult your Doctor for more information.
However, omega-6 supplements may interfere with these following medications:
While omega-6 fatty acids are considered healthy or even important for your body, overconsumption of omega-6 may lead to surplus calorie intake.
Also, increased dietary intake of Omega-6 fatty acids may lead to oxidation of low-density lipoprotein (LDL), platelet aggregation and interferes with the incorporation of essential fatty acids (EFA) in cell membrane phospholipids.
Maintaining normal levels of omega-6 may be important for your body, but any increased levels may lead to inflammation. Inflammation can lead to chronic diseases like heart disease.
You can avoid processed and deep-fried foods to minimise your intake of omega-6.
Foods perfectly balanced in omega-6, omega-3 and monounsaturated fats can help you in more ways than one.
In this context, nutrigenomics can help you to prepare a meal plan that can help normalise omega-6 in your blood.
There are no universal dietary plans that apply to everyone. The solution lies dietary recommendations, based on your blood parameters and gene markers, that can work for you and improve your overall health.
If you have a question related to this blog post, write to us here and we will update this post with a response.
Sources: The Mount Sinai Health System, Mayo Clinic, WebMD, Medical News Today, Healthline, Harvard Health Publishing, RxList, Medline Plus and National Library of Medicine.
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