The nutritional value of omega-6 fatty acids is a controversial topic. However, is omega-6 bad for you? Many nutritionists used to believe that omega-6 caused inflammation and increased your risk of heart disease. However, none of the other fatty acids have inflammatory properties.
New research has debunked the theory that omega-6 increases the risk of heart disease. In fact, the same study suggests that omega-6 fatty acids may reduce the risk of heart disease or stroke. This is excellent news.
Omega-6 fatty acids have a plethora of benefits. As a polyunsaturated fat, omega-6 promotes the growth of skin cells and hair, supports bone health and reproductive health, and regulates your metabolism. I’ll talk more about the benefits of omega-6 in a moment.
What are Omega-6s?
Omega 6 fatty acids are a type of fat found in certain foods and supplements. Omega 6 fatty acids are naturally found in certain plant foods, such as vegetables and nuts. Some vegetable oils, including soybean oil, contain significant amounts of these fats.
The Roles of Omega-6s in the Body
While the current conversation might lead you to believe that omega-6s are totally bad, they have many very real roles in the body.
For starters, omega-6s are generally considered beneficial for heart health because they support healthy levels of LDL and HDL cholesterol.
They also play a role in blood sugar regulation by promoting cellular sensitivity to insulin, which is important for metabolic health.
Omega 6 even has an important role for our immune system. They are critical in helping cells respond immunologically when needed, and they help keep your blood from clotting too fast or too slow.
While it may sound bad that omega-6 is a component of inflammatory markers, these pathways are an important defense mechanism used to help us regenerate and heal.
In addition to these functions, omega-6 is even involved in maintaining bone, reproductive and brain health; hair growth; and overall growth and development.
Benefits of Omega-6 Fatty Acids
1. Helps Reduce Nerve Pain
Studies have shown that long-term use of gamma-linolenic acid (GLA) – an omega-6 fatty acid – may reduce nerve pain symptoms in patients with diabetic neuropathy. Diabetic neuropathy is a type of nerve damage that can occur as a result of poorly controlled diabetes. A study in the journal Diabetes Care actually found that taking GLA for one year was significantly more effective at reducing symptoms of diabetic neuropathy than a placebo. While more research is needed, this could have far-reaching implications and may be beneficial for people with a variety of conditions that cause nerve pain, including cancer and HIV.
2.Omega-6s Facilitates Fat Metabolism
This is by far its best-known benefit. Clinical evidence shows that linoleic acid helps regulate fat metabolism. CLA supports healthy levels of triglycerides in the blood – in other words, it prevents your body from building fat stores. By increasing fat metabolism, CLA increases caloric expenditure throughout the day and your body’s ability to use energy efficiently.
3.Omega-6s Support Bone Health
Our bones are constantly changing, growing and developing. Your bones are basically made up of collagen and calcium. Throughout your life, your body renews the composition of collagen and minerals to keep your bones strong.
Until the age of 25, your bones are very mineral-dense. Your body adds more new bone than it takes away. Between the ages of 25 and 50, your bone density remains fairly constant, breaking down and forming in equal measure. However, once you reach 50, your bones begin to break down more quickly than they form.
4.Lowers Risk of Heart Disease
Health organizations such as the American Heart Association often recommend replacing saturated fats with vegetable oils that are rich in polyunsaturated fats such as linoleic acid to reduce the risk of coronary heart disease.
Of course, keep in mind that when it comes to vegetable oils, some choices are better than others because many are often highly refined and come from genetically modified crops, which are at the top of the list of omega-6 foods to avoid. However, linoleic acid can also be obtained from other sources, including nuts and seeds. Walnuts, in particular, are a great source of omega-6, providing about 11 grams of linoleic acid as well as a significant amount of alpha-linolenic acid, a plant-based omega-3 fatty acid that can help keep your fatty acid intake balanced.
Omega 6 is an essential fatty acid that we must get from food and supplements because our bodies cannot produce this fatty acid on their own. So is omega 6 good or bad? Omega 6 fatty acids have many important health benefits and can help reduce nerve pain, facilitate fat metabolism, support bone health and lowers risk of heart disease.