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Omega-6 Fatty Acids - Helpful or Harmful

Posted Mar 03 2009 4:28pm

There is plenty of research to support the benefits of adding omega-3 fatty acids to our diets to improve heart health but what about omega-6 fatty acids? Recently there has been some debate about the health effects of omega-6 fatty acids, some suggest that they may promote inflammation and increase cardiovascular risk?

Omega-6 fatty acids are found in nuts, seeds and vegetable oils. Linoleic acid is the main omega-6 fatty acid found in foods. Linoleic acid can form arachidonic acid which is involved in the early stages of inflammation (inflammation has been linked to heart disease). But both linoleic and arachidonic acid also are involved in the formation of anti-inflammatory particles. Recent studies have found that people who ate omega-6 fatty acids actually had a lower incidence of heart disease and people with heart disease have lower levels of omega-6 fatty acids in their blood. Omega-6 fatty acids may help lower the risk of heart disease when they are used to replace saturated fats in our diets.

The American Heart Association recommends that adults try to get at least 5 to 10% of their daily calories from omega-6 fatty acids (approximately 12 to 22 grams per day, dependent upon your daily caloric intake).  Most adults are probably already consuming this amount by eating nuts, salad dressing, and from oils. Remember moderation is key. Omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids should be part of your overally healthy eating plan.

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