Omega 6 fatty acids are considered essential fatty acids (EFAs), which means that they are essential to human health but cannot be made in the body. For this reason, they must be obtained from food sources.
What are Omega 6 Fatty Acids?
Omega 6 fatty acids are a family of unsaturated fatty acids which have in common a carbon-carbon double bond in the n−6 position; that is, the sixth bond from the end of the fatty acid.
Omega 6 fatty acids are considered essential fatty acids (EFAs), which means that they are essential to human health but cannot be made in the body. For this reason, they must be obtained from food sources. Omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids play a crucial role in brain function as well as normal growth and development. See why Omega 3 and 6 are different to Omega 9.
The biological effects of the n−6 fatty acids are largely mediated by their conversion to n-6 eicosanoids that bind to diverse receptors found in every tissue of the body. The conversion of tissue arachidonic acid (20:4n-6) to n-6 prostaglandin and n-6 leukotriene hormones provides many targets for pharmaceutical drug development and treatment to diminish excessive n-6 actions in atherosclerosis, asthma, arthritis, vascular disease, thrombosis, immune-inflammatory processes and tumor proliferation.
The optimal ratio is thought to be 4 to 1 or lower. Deficiencies in EFAs can lead to reduced growth, a scaly rash called dermatitis, infertility, and lack of ability to fight infection and heal wounds. Lack of omega-6 fatty acids, however, is extremely rare in diets of those living in certain Western countries. Modern Western diets typically have ratios of n−6 to n−3 in excess of 10 to 1, some as high as 30 to 1.
There are several different types of omega-6 fatty acids. Most omega-6 fatty acids are consumed in the diet from vegetable oils as linoleic acid.
Omega 6 is reported to assist the following medical conditions:
Menopausal Symptoms - Evening Primrose Oil (EPO) has gained some popularity for treating hot flashes.
High Blood Pressure and Heart Disease - Animal studies suggest that GLA, either alone or in combination with two important omega-3 fatty acids, EPA and DHA both found in fish and fish oil, may lower the blood pressure.
Rheumatoid Arthritis - Some preliminary information indicates that GLA, from EPO, borage oil, or black currant seed oil, may diminish joint pain, swelling, and morning stiffness.
Alcoholism - EPO may help lessen cravings for alcohol and prevent liver damage.
Eye Disease - GLA may be beneficial in dry eye conditions such as Sjogren's syndrome.
Ulcers - Very preliminary evidence from test tube and animal studies suggest that GLA from Evening Primrose Oil may have anti-ulcer properties.
Anorexia Nervosa - Studies suggest that women, and possibly men, with anorexia nervosa have lower than optimal levels of PUFAs and display abnormalities in the use of these fatty acids in the body.
Allergies - People who are prone to allergies may require more EFAs and often have difficulty converting LA to GLA.
Cancer - Results of studies looking at the relationship of omega-6 fatty acids to cancer have been mixed. While LA and AA are cancer promoting in studies of colon, breast, and other cancers, GLA and Evening Primrose Oil have shown some benefit for breast cancer in certain studies.
Tuberculosis - Animal studies suggest that guinea pigs fed a diet rich in omega-6 fatty acids were better able to fight this infection than guinea pigs fed a diet rich in omega-3 fatty acids.
Eczema - Several early studies suggested that Evening Primrose Oil is more beneficial than placebo at relieving symptoms associated with this skin condition such as itching, redness, and scaling.
Osteoporosis - A deficiency in essential fatty acids (including GLA and EPA, an omega-3 fatty acid) can lead to severe bone loss and osteoporosis.
Diabetes - Omega-6 fatty acid supplementation, in the form of GLA from EPO or other sources, may assist nerve function and help prevent nerve disease experienced by those with diabetes.
ADD - ADHD - Studies suggest that children with ADHD have lower levels of EFAs, both omega-6s and omega-3s.
Foods Containg Omega 3 fatty Acids Include:
most vegetable oils
evening primrose oil
blackcurrant seed oil
flax or linseed oil
sunflower seed oil
Excess n−6 fats interfere with the health benefits of n−3 fats; in part because they compete for the same rate-limiting enzymes. A high proportion of n−6 to n−3 fat in the diet shifts the physiological state in the tissues toward the pathogenesis of many diseases: prothrombotic, proinflammatory and proconstrictive. Some medical research suggests that excessive levels of n−6 fatty acids, relative to n−3 fatty acids, may increase the probability of a number of diseases and depression.
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