Omega-6 fatty acids are essential fatty acids. They are important for human health, but the body cannot make them. You have to get them through food. Along with omega-3 fatty acids, omega-6 fatty acids present a crucial role in brain function, and normal growth and development. As a type of polyunsaturated fatty acid (PUFA), omega-6s help stimulates skin and hair growth, support bone health, control metabolism, and maintain the reproductive system.
A healthy diet contains a balance of omega- 6 and omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3 fatty acids help decrease inflammation, and some omega-6 fatty acids tend to raise inflammation. In fact, some studies propose that elevated intakes of omega-6 fatty acids may play a role in complex regional pain syndrome.
The Mediterranean diet, on the other hand, has a healthier balance within omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. Studies show that people who follow a Mediterranean-style diet are less likely to improve heart disease. The Mediterranean diet does not contains much meat (which is high in omega-6 fatty acids, though grass-fed beef has a more favorable omega-3 to omega-6 fatty acid ratio), and emphasizes foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids, including whole grains, vegetables,fresh fruits and , fish, garlic, olive oil, as well as average wine consumption.
There are various types of omega-6 fatty acids, and not all promote inflammation. Most omega-6 fatty acids in the diet come from vegetable oils, such as linoleic acid (LA), not to be mixed with alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), which is an omega-3 fatty acid. Linoleic acid is changed to gamma-linolenic acid (GLA) in the body. It can then break down additional to arachidonic acid (AA). GLA is found in several plant-based oils, including evening primrose oil (EPO), borage oil, and black currant seed oil.
GLA may reduce inflammation. Much of the GLA used as a supplement is converted to a substance called DGLA that fights inflammation. Having enough of certain nutrients in the body (including zinc, magnesium, and vitamins C, B3, and B6) helps promote the conversion of GLA to DGLA.
Omega-6 fatty acids may be useful for the following health conditions:
Some studies show that taking gamma-linolenic acid (GLA) for 6 months or more may decrease symptoms of nerve pain in people with diabetic neuropathy. People who have good blood sugar control may find GLA more powerful than those with poor blood sugar control.
Rheumatoid arthritis (RA)
Studies are mixed as to whether evening primrose oil (EPO) helps decrease symptoms of RA. Preliminary evidence suggests EPO may reduce swelling, pain, and morning stiffness, but other studies have found no effect. When using GLA for symptoms of arthritis, it may take 1 to 3 months for benefits to appear. It is unlikely that EPO would help stop the progression of the illness. So joint damage would still occur.
Omega-6 fatty acids from supplements or food, such as GLA from EPO or other sources, have a longstanding history of folk use for allergies. Women who are prone to allergies seem to have lower levels of GLA in breast milk and blood. But, there is no good scientific proof that taking GLA helps reduce allergy symptoms. Well-conducted research studies are needed.
One study noticed that women with breast cancer who took GLA had a better response to tamoxifen (a medicine used to treat estrogen-sensitive breast cancer) than those who used only tamoxifen. Other studies recommend that GLA inhibits tumor activity among breast cancer cell lines. There is some research suggesting that a diet rich in omega-6 fatty acids may improve breast cancer development. DO NOT add fatty acid supplements, or any supplements, to your breast cancer treatment regimen without your doctor’s permission.
EPO has gained popularity as a way to use hot flashes associated with menopause. But so far studies have been unresolved. If you want to try EPO for hot flashes and night sweats, Consult your doctor whether it is safe and right for you.
Breast pain (mastalgia)
Some evidence proposes that EPO may reduce breast pain and tenderness in people with cyclic mastalgia. It may also support to reduce symptoms to a lesser extent in people with noncyclic mastalgia. However, it does not seem to be useful for severe breast pain.
Some studies recommend that people who do not get enough essential fatty acids (particularly EPA and GLA) are more likely to have a bone loss than those with normal levels of these fatty acids. In a study of women over 65 with osteoporosis, those who took EPA and GLA supplements had less bone loss over 3 years than those who took the placebo. Many of these women also felt a rise in bone density.
Omega-6 fatty acids are available in supplemental oils that include linoleic acid (LA) and GLA, such as EPO (Oenothera biennis) and black currant (Ribes nigrum) oils. Spirulina (often known as blue-green algae) also contains GLA.
How to Take It
The medium diet provides sufficient omega-6 fatty acids, so supplementation is normally not necessary unless you are treating a specific condition, such as:
• Breast tenderness (mastalgia)
The dosage and form of omega-6 fatty acids to be supplemented depends on many factors, including:
• The condition being treated
• Other medications and supplements being used
Ask your doctor to determine what form and what dose of omega-6 fatty acids are most appropriate for you.
Because of the potential for side effects and interactions with medicines, you should take dietary supplements only under the supervision of a knowledgeable health care provider.
DO NOT take omega-6 fatty acids if you have a seizure disease because there have been reports of these supplements causing seizures. Many reports describe seizures in people taking EPO. Some of these seizures developed in people with a previous seizure disorder, or in people using EPO in combination with anesthetics. People who plan to undergo surgery requiring anesthesia should stop using EPO 2 weeks ahead of time.
If you are currently being used with any of the following medications, you should not use omega-6 supplements without talking to your health care provider first.
Blood-thinning medications: People taking blood thinners, including warfarin (Coumadin) or clopidogrel (Plavix), should not take omega-6 fatty acid supplements without a doctor’s guidance. Omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids may raise the risk of bleeding.
Ceftazidime: GLA may increase the effectiveness of ceftazidime. Ceftazidime, an antibiotic, is used upon a variety of bacterial infections.
Phenothiazines: People taking a class of medicines called phenothiazines to treat schizophrenia should not take EPO. EPO may interact with these medications and raise the risk of seizures. The same may be valid for other omega-6 supplements. These medications include:
• Chlorpromazine (Thorazine)
• Fluphenazine (Stelazine)
• Perphenazine (Trilafon)
• Promethazine (Compazine)
• Thioridazine (Mellaril)
Most Common Side effects
Side effects that normally do not require medical attention (report to your doctor or health care professional if they continue or are bothersome):
• nausea or stomach upset
• white patches or sores in the mouth
Serious Side effects
Side effects that you should report to your doctor or health care specialist as soon as possible:
• allergic effects like skin rash, swelling of the face, itching or hives,
• breathing problems
• confusion, nightmares or hallucinations
• feeling faint or lightheaded falls
• irregular heartbeat
• joint, muscle or tendon pain or swelling
• pain or trouble passing urine
• a persistent headache with or without blurred vision
• redness, peeling or loosening of the skin, blistering, including inside the mouth
• unusual pain, numbness, tingling, or weakness