Facts and Food Sources of Omega-6 fatty acid


Linoleic acid, also known as an omega-6 fatty acid, is found in vegetable and nut oils, such as sunflower, safflower, corn, soy, and peanut oil. It is a polyunsaturated fatty acid with its endmost double bond six carbons from the end of the carbon chain. Linoleic acid is metabolized in the body to arachidonic acid, which is a precursor to a number of eicosanoids. Linoleic acid is also needed for cell membrane structure and is required for the lipoproteins that transport fats in our blood.

Biological effects of Omega-6 fatty acids are produced largely during and after physical activity for promoting growth and during inflammatory cascade to interrupt cell damage and enhance cell repair by its conversion to omega-6 eicosanoids which bind to diverse receptors found in ever body tissue. Omega-6 fatty acids are important for cell growth, brain development, and nerve message transmission.


Though researchers are aware about the impact of fatty acids on health, but the importance of dietary fat was not realized fully until 1900s. Before then, the dietary fat was used to promote caloric intake and gain weight.

In 1929, omega-6 fatty acids was discovered by George and Mildred Burr, a husband and wife duo who conducted research on rats show that lack of fatty acids in diet could result deficiency and even death in extreme cases. This led to the discovery of omega-6 fatty acids and showed significance of other essential fatty acids such as omega-3 fatty acids.

Until mid-1990s, linoleic acid was regarded as the essential fatty acid which should be obtained through dietary sources and the only fatty acid to be added to infant formula. Scientist has recognized two types of essential fatty acids which body is not able to synthesize: alpha-linolenic acid and linoleic acid.

Still researchers are continuing to learn various ways that essential fatty acids such as omega-6 can affect health and the necessity of maintaining proper balance of fatty acids to combat inflammation and prevent chronic ailments.

Dietary Sources

Health Benefits of Omega-6 fatty acid

Omega-6 fatty acids are considered as essential fatty acids. It is crucial for human health, but body cannot make it. It should be obtained from food sources. Besides omega-3 fatty acids, omega-6 fatty acids have a crucial role in brain function as well as normal growth and development. Omega-6 fatty acid is a type of polyunsaturated fatty acid which helps to stimulate skin or hair growth, regulate metabolism, maintain bone health and maintain reproductive system.

  1. Lower nerve pain

Study shows that intake of gamma linolenic acid helps to lower nerve pain symptoms in people having diabetic neuropathy long term. A type of nerve damage, diabetic neuropathy could occur as a result of poorly controlled diabetes. It effectively lowers symptoms of diabetic neuropathy than placebo. Research is needed to find out its effectiveness for people with various conditions such as nerve pain, HIV and cancer.

  1. Treat rheumatoid arthritis

Rheumatoid arthritis is a chronic inflammatory disorder showing rheumatoid arthritis symptoms such as stiffness, joint pain and swelling. Some types of omega-6 fatty acids could lower symptoms and prevent joint pain.

  1. ADHD symptoms

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder is a condition could affect both adults and could cause symptoms such as hyperactivity, limited attention, impulsivity and mood swings. Study was conducted on patients with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder by using omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acid supplementation. It was tested for six months with 75 children and adolescents. Majority did not respond to omega-6 and omega 3 treatment, a subgroup of 26 percent responded with above 25 percent reduction of ADHD symptoms. About 47 percent showed improvement in symptoms after six months.

  1. Lower blood pressure

High blood pressure could enhance force of blood against artery walls, put strain on heart muscle and cause it to weaken over time. Study shows that omega-3 fish oil helps to lower high blood pressure symptoms. Study of men with borderline high blood pressure showed that blackcurrant oil is a type of oil.

  1. Lower heart problems

Vegetable oils are rich in polyunsaturated fats such as linoleic acid to lower the chances of coronary heart disease. Linoleic acid is derived from other sources such as seeds and nuts. The great source of omega-6s is walnuts which provide 11 grams of linoleic acid and good amount of alpha linolenic acid which is a plant based omega-3 fatty acid that could assist balanced intake of fatty acid.

  1. Bone health

As people gets older, people slowly lose bone tissue over time resulting an increase in chances of fractures and falls. Study shows that PUFAs helps to preserve skeletal formation as we ages which reports that both women and men showed improvement in bones of hips and spine when taking omega-3 and omega-6 fats. Researcher shows that intake of high ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids was related with low bone mineral density in hips for both sexes.

Side Effects

  • When consumed in excess, it could result inflammation and increase the chances of serious conditions like heart disease, asthma, cancer, depression and arthritis.
  • People with eczema, arthritis, psoriasis, diabetes and breast tenderness should consult doctor before using any omega-6 supplements.
  • Misbalance of omega 6 to omega 3 ratio could cause lipids to stop their function of reducing the ‘bad’ LDL cholesterol.





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