The human body gets its entire source of omega-6 fatty acids from diets and supplements. The average human daily diet of eggs, poultry, cereals, vegetable oils, and baked goods generally provides adequate levels of omega-6 fatty acids without one having to resort to supplements. Evening primrose oil, black currant oil, and spirulina or blue-green algae are the best sources of linoleic acid (LA) and gamma-linoleic acid (GLA), the two major compounds of omega-6 fatty acids.
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Studies prove that GLA, either alone or in combination with omega-3 fatty acids, contributes to reducing high blood pressure or alleviating hypertension.
Some studies suggest that people with less than normal levels of omega-6 fatty acids remain at increased risk of bone loss, and reduced bone density.
Preliminary research shows that evening primrose oil may reduce the pain, swelling, and morning stiffness associated with rheumatoid arthritis.
Consumption of evening primrose oil is a popular part of the standard therapy for multiple sclerosis, which is a disease of the brain and spinal cord. Other studies show that consumption of GLA for six months or more may reduce symptoms of nerve pain in people with diabetic neuropathy.
Consumption of omega-6 fatty acid may help fight breast cancer by allowing the body to respond better to tamoxifen, which is the drug used to treat estrogen-sensitive breast cancer.
Evidence suggests that consumption of evening primrose oil contributes to reduced breast pain and tenderness in people suffering from mastalgia to a limited extent.
Evening primrose oil has also gained popularity as a way to treat hot flashes associated with menopause.
Benefits to the Skin
The major health benefits of omega-6 fatty acids relate to skin. Omega-6 fatty acids stimulate skin and hair growth.
Research has linked low levels of omega-6 fatty acid intake to lower immunity levels, making the body more susceptible to dermatitis, eczema, and other skin infections. Pregnant women who fail to consume adequate amounts of omega-6 fatty acid can pass the risk of such infections and other skin disorders to their infants.
The presence of linoleic acid (LA) in the human body helps alleviate psoriasis, acne, and other skin conditions.
Flax seed, which is high in GLA, is a proven cure for eczema. Other studies suggest that the daily intake of three grams of evening primrose oil helps children recover from eczema.
Evening primrose oil is commonly used in folk medicine to treat allergies. Research shows that woman and children prone to allergies have lower levels of GLA in their breast milk and blood. This raises the conjecture that an additional intake of GLA by consumption of evening primrose oil could possibly remove the allergy.
Continue to Page 2 for the conclusion of the discussion on the health benefits of omega-6 fatty acids.
A strong opinion holds that omega-6 is “bad” fat, whereas omega-3 is “good” fat because while omega-3 reduces inflammation in the joints, bloodstream, and tissues, omega-6 promotes inflammation. However, the fact is that not all omega-6 fatty acids promote inflammation. GLA actually reduces inflammation.
The human body gets most of its omega-6 fatty acids from vegetable oils that contain LA, which the body converts to GLA, or from plant-based oils such as evening primrose oil, borage oil, and black currant seed oil, all of which contain GLA.
Inflammation occurs because of the inability of the body to convert the GLA into DGLA. The body first converts GLA into Anachidonic acid (AA), and then converts the AA to DGLA. In the process, some AA remains, and it causes inflammation. A healthy intake of vitamins such as magnesium, zinc, B vitamins, and vitamin C help GLA convert fully into DGLA without leaving behind AA.
The Right Combination
The health benefits of omega-6 fatty acids are available only when it is consumed in the right proportion to omega-3 fatty acids, and excess consumption of omega-6 fatty acids causes much harm to the human body.
A healthy diet requires a proportion of omega-6 and omega-3 in the ratio of 2:1 to 4:1 in favor of omega-6 fatty acids. People with specific conditions, such as eczema or psoriasis, arthritis, diabetes, or mastalgia, for which omega-6 fatty acids are a possible cure, may want to enhance their omega-6 fatty acid intake through supplements, as directed by a medical practitioner.
How do you balance omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids in the diet?
One good diet that balances omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids is the Mediterranean diet. This dies does not include much meat, which is high in omega-6 fatty acids, but rather places emphasis on whole grains, fresh fruits and vegetables, fish, olive oil, garlic, and moderate wine consumption.
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- University of Maryland Medical Center. “Omega-6 fatty acids.” https://www.umm.edu/altmed/articles/omega-6-000317.htm. Retrieved 21 December 2010.
- NetWellness. “Understanding Omega-3 and Omega-6.” https://www.netwellness.uc.edu/healthtopics/alternative/omega3.cfm. Retrieved 21 December 2010.
- Simpopoulous, Artemis, P. “The Importance of the Omega-6/Omega-3 Fatty Acid Ratio in Cardiovascular Disease and Other Chronic Diseases.” The Center for Genetics, Nutrition and Health, Washington, DC 20009. Retreived from https://www.itogha.com/uploads/1._simopoulos_omega-6_-_omega-3_balansen.pdf on 21 December 2010.