Omega-6 Fatty Acids: Things You Need To Know

What are Omega-6 Fatty Acids?

  • Like omega-3 fatty acids, omega-6 fatty acids are polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA). 
  • The most common omega-6 fat is linoleic acid, which can be converted into longer omega-6 fats such as arachidonic acid (ARA). 1
  • In typical adult females and males, a daily intake of approximately 
    • 6 g/day (5 g omega-6 PUFA/day + 1 g omega-3 PUFA/day) for women 
    • 8 g/day (6.4 g omega-6 PUFA/day + 1.6 g omega-3 PUFA/day) for men are advisable.3

Common sources of Omega-6

  • Omega-6 fats are found in large amounts in refined vegetable oils and foods cooked in vegetable oils.
  • Here are the amounts of omega-6s in 100 grams of the following foods:
    • Soybean oil: 50 grams(g)
    • Corn oil: 49 g
    • Mayonnaise: 39 g
    • Sunflower seeds: 34 g
    • Almonds: 12 g
    • Cashew nuts: 8 g


Benefits of taking Omega-6

  • Gamma Linoleic Acid (GLA) may reduce inflammation, which may be useful in the following conditions:
    • Taking GLA for 6 months or more may reduce symptoms of nerve pain in people with diabetic neuropathy. 4
    • Taking a high dose of GLA supplements significantly reduced the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis, such as swelling, morning stiffness.5
    • Evidence suggests that increasing omega-6 fats reduces blood cholesterol.6

Risks of taking Omega-6 7

  • Increase in the ratio of omega-6: omega-3 PUFA were seen in chronic inflammatory diseases such as 
    • Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD)
    • Cardiovascular disease
    • Obesity
    • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Thus, it is important to ensure you have obtained an adequate ratio of omega-6: omega-3 PUFA in your daily diet.

The ratio of Omega-6: Omega-3 in our diet 8

The World Health Organisation has recommended an Omega-6: Omega-3 PUFA ratio of 5-10:1. 


Reference:

  1. Gibson RA, Muhlhausler B, Makrides M. Conversion of linoleic acid and alpha-linolenic acid to long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids (LCPUFAs), with a focus on pregnancy, lactation and the first 2 years of life.Matern Child Nutr. 2011 Apr;7 Suppl 2:17-26. doi: 10.1111/j.1740-8709.2011.00299.x.
  2. No need to avoid healthy omega-6 fats. Assessed on 16 March 2020. Available at https://www.health.harvard.edu/newsletter_article/no-need-to-avoid-healthy-omega-6-fats
  3. Essential Fatty Acids: Intake Recommendations. Assessed on 16 March 2020. Available at https://www.nutri-facts.org/en_US/nutrients/essential-fatty-acids/essential-fatty-acids/intake-recommendations.html
  4. Jong CW, Kwon HS,et al. γ-Linolenic Acid versus α-Lipoic Acid for Treating Painful Diabetic Neuropathy in Adults: A 12-Week, Double-Placebo, Randomized, Noninferiority Trial. Diabetes Metab J. 2019;43:e60. English.
  5. Zurier RB, Rossetti RG, Jacobson EW, et al. Gamma-Linolenic acid treatment of rheumatoid arthritis. A randomized, placebo-controlled trial. Arthritis Rheum. 1996 Nov;39(11):1808-17.
  6. Hooper L, Al-Khudairy L, et al. Omega-6 fats for the primary and secondary prevention of cardiovascular disease. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2018, Issue 11. Art. No.: CD011094. DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD011094.pub4
  7. Patterson E, Wall R, Fitzgerald GF, Ross RP, Stanton C. Health implications of high dietary omega-6 polyunsaturated Fatty acids. J Nutr Metab. 2012;2012:539426. doi:10.1155/2012/539426
  8. Recommended Nutrient Intakes For Malaysia. National Coordinating Committee on Food and Nutrition (NCCFN), Ministry of Health Malaysia. 2017.