Omega-6 fatty acids, a type of polyunsaturated fat, are essential fatty acids, that human body cannot produce them on its own and they must be obtained through the diet. The term “omega-6” refers to the specific location of the first double bond in the fatty acid molecule, counting from the methyl end (the omega end).
Linoleic acid (LA) is the primary omega-6 fatty acid found in the food sources. After we consume, the body can convert linoleic acid into other omega-6 fatty acids, such as arachidonic acid (AA).
Cell structure: Omega-6 fatty acids are components of cell membranes, assisting in maintaining their structure and function.
Inflammation: While some inflammation is essential for the body’s defence and healing mechanisms, excessive or chronic inflammation can be dangerous and harmful. Omega-6 fatty acids, especially arachidonic acid, serve as precursors for certain signalling molecules (leukotrienes, prostaglandins) involved in the inflammatory response.
Brain function: These fatty acids are also important for normal brain development and function.
Common food sources of omega-6 fatty acids include vegetable oils (like soybean, corn, and sunflower oils), seeds, nuts, and certain grains. While omega-6 fatty acids are necessary for health, a balance between omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids is important. These both types of fatty acids compete for the same enzymes in the body, and due to an imbalance (excessive omega-6 relative to omega-3) a condition has been associated with inflammation and various health problems. So, maintaining a balanced ratio of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids in the diet is considered beneficial for overall health well being. The ideal ratio is still a subject of ongoing research, but a general guideline is a ratio close to 1:1 or up to 4:1 (omega-6 to omega-3).
Dietary Consumption: The ideal amount of omega-6 fatty acids depends on individual health factors, gender, age, and specific dietary needs. However, there are few general recommendations directed by health organizations.
The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend that adults should have a dietary intake of 5-10% of total daily calories from polyunsaturated fats, which include both omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. While there is no specific recommended daily intake for omega-6 alone, the ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 is crucial.