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Nutritional Supplement

Omega-6 Fatty Acids

Possible Deficiencies

Typical Western diets are abundant in omega-6 fatty acids, so deficiencies usually occur only in special situations, such as starvation and diseases that affect fat absorption.

Side Effects

One of the omega-6 fatty acids, arachidonic acid, can be used by the body to make substances that are inflammatory, increase blood clotting, or constrict blood vessels.8,9 A controlled study showed that a low arachidonic acid diet provided some relief to people with rheumatoid arthritis, an inflammatory disease.10 However, studies of the effect of arachidonic acid on heart disease risk factors have found either no effect or a beneficial effect of higher arachidonic acid intake.11 More research is needed to determine the effects of arachidonic acid on different diseases.

Since arachidonic acid can be made from other omega-6 fatty acids, some authorities have theorized that reducing the consumption of all omega-6 fatty acids might help prevent or relieve inflammatory diseases and other conditions, such as heart disease, that are associated with certain arachidonic acid byproducts.12,13 However, production of arachidonic acid from other omega-6 fatty acids appears to be quite limited.14 Also, gamma-linolenic acid is an omega-6 fatty acid that the body can use to make anti-inflammatory substances.15,16 Finally, preliminary studies have found that blood measures of inflammation are actually lower in people with higher omega-6 intake,17,18 and preliminary and controlled studies suggest that high omega-6 intake prevents cardiovascular disease.11 Overall, there appears to be benefit, not risk, in consuming omega-6 fatty acids other than arachidonic acid.

References

1. Jones PJ, Kubow K. Lipids, sterols, and their metabolites. In Shils ME, Shike, M, Ross AC, et al, eds. Modern Nutrition in Health and Disease, 10th edition. Philadelphia: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, 2005:110-114.

2. Harris WS, Mozaffarian D, Rimm E, et al. Omega-6 fatty acids and risk for cardiovascular disease: a science advisory from the American Heart Association Nutrition Subcommittee of the Council on Nutrition, Physical Activity, and Metabolism; Council on Cardiovascular Nursing; and Council on Epidemiology and Prevention. Circulation 2009;119:902-7 [review].

3. Gordon DJ. Lowering cholesterol and total mortality. In: Rifkin BM, ed. Lowering cholesterol in high-risk individuals and populations. New York, NY: Marcel Dekker, Inc; 1995:33- 48.

4. Food and Nutrition Board, Institute of Medicine. Dietary Reference Intakes for Energy, Carbohydrate, Fiber, Fat, Fatty Acids, Cholesterol, Protein and Amino Acids. Washington, DC: National Academies Press; 2005:464.

5. Dietary guidelines for Americans: The report of the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee on Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2005. Department of Health and Human Services [cited 2010 Feb 16]. Available from URL: www.health.gov/dietaryguidelines/dga2005/report/default.htm.

6. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. Third Report of the Expert Panel on Detection, Evaluation, and Treatment of High Blood Cholesterol in Adults (Adult Treatment Panel III) [cited 2010 Feb 16]. Available from URL: www.nhlbi.nih.gov/guidelines/cholesterol/index.htm.

7. Adam O, Beringer C, Kless T, et al. Anti-inflammatory effects of a low arachidonic acid diet and fish oil in patients with rheumatoid arthritis. Rheumatol Int 2003;23:27-36.

8. Calder PC. Dietary modification of inflammation with lipids. Proc Nutr Soc 2002;61:345-58 [review].

9. Praticò D, Dogné JM. Vascular biology of eicosanoids and atherogenesis. Expert Rev Cardiovasc Ther 2009;7:1079-89 [review].

10. Adam O, Beringer C, Kless T, et al. Anti-inflammatory effects of a low arachidonic acid diet and fish oil in patients with rheumatoid arthritis. Rheumatol Int 2003;23:27-36.

11. Harris WS, Mozaffarian D, Rimm E, et al. Omega-6 fatty acids and risk for cardiovascular disease: a science advisory from the American Heart Association Nutrition Subcommittee of the Council on Nutrition, Physical Activity, and Metabolism; Council on Cardiovascular Nursing; and Council on Epidemiology and Prevention. Circulation 2009;119:902-7 [review].

12. Simopoulos AP. The importance of the omega-6/omega-3 fatty acid ratio in cardiovascular disease and other chronic diseases. Exp Biol Med (Maywood) 2008;233:674-88 [review].

13. Hamazaki T, Okuyama H. The Japan Society for Lipid Nutrition recommends to reduce the intake of linoleic acid: a review and critique of the scientific evidence. World Rev Nutr Diet 2003;92:109-32 [review].

14. Plourde M, Cunnane SC. Extremely limited synthesis of long chain polyunsaturates in adults: implications for their dietary essentiality and use as supplements. Appl Physiol Nutr Metab 2007;32:619-34 [review].

15. Kapoor R, Huang YS. Gamma linolenic acid: an antiinflammatory omega-6 fatty acid. Curr Pharm Biotechnol 2006;7:531-4 [review].

16. Harbige LS. Fatty acids, the immune response, and autoimmunity: a question of n-6 essentiality and the balance between n-6 and n-3. Lipids 2003;38:323-41 [review].

17. Pischon T, Hankinson SE, Hotamisligil GS, et al. Habitual dietary intake of n-3 and n-6 fatty acids in relation to inflammatory markers among US men and women. Circulation 2003;108:155-60.

18. Ferrucci L, Cherubini A, Bandinelli S, et al. Relationship of plasma polyunsaturated fatty acids to circulating inflammatory markers. J Clin Endocrinol Metab 2006;91:439-46.

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The information presented by TraceGains is for informational purposes only. It is based on scientific studies (human, animal, or in vitro), clinical experience, or traditional usage as cited in each article. The results reported may not necessarily occur in all individuals. For many of the conditions discussed, treatment with prescription or over the counter medication is also available. Consult your doctor, practitioner, and/or pharmacist for any health problem and before using any supplements or before making any changes in prescribed medications. Information expires December 2020.

Copyright © 2020 TraceGains, Inc. All rights reserved.

The information presented by TraceGains is for informational purposes only. It is based on scientific studies (human, animal, or in vitro), clinical experience, or traditional usage as cited in each article. The results reported may not necessarily occur in all individuals. Self-treatment is not recommended for life-threatening conditions that require medical treatment under a doctor's care. For many of the conditions discussed, treatment with prescription or over the counter medication is also available. Consult your doctor, practitioner, and/or pharmacist for any health problem and before using any supplements or before making any changes in prescribed medications. Information expires December 2020.