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What about Omega-6 Fatty Acids?


As the title suggests, omega-6 fatty acids are a group of fatty acids characterized by having the first double bond after the sixth carbon (and not the third, as in the case of an omega-3 fatty acid.) Examples of omega-6 fatty acids are linoleic acid, gamma-linolenic acid, and arachidonic acid.

The names are not too important to us. What is important is realizing that for optimal health, the diet should contain almost the same amount of omega-3 fatty acids as omega-6 fatty acids. The typical western diet is rich in foods (such as beef, eggs, milk, and corn oil) providing plenty of the latter, but little of the former. This might be part of the reason why supplementing with omega-3 fatty acids such as DHA seems to improve certain health conditions. Balance is an important key.

We can understand how this balance is achieved by recalling that the body uses fatty acids to form prostaglandins. For instance, the body uses arachidonic acid, an omega-6 fatty acid, to form prostaglandins in the PG2 series. One member in this series, PGE2 affects the body in many ways just opposite to PG-3, which we considered above. Namely, PGE2 accelerates blood clotting, increases LDL cholesterol and triglycerides, raises blood pressure, promotes inflammation, intensifies spasms in brain vessels, worsening migraines. These functions are not necessarily bad, because in certain situations, the body needs exactly these things. For instance, if you cut yourself, you surely want your blood to clot quickly, or else you will bleed to death. The problem arises when we eat so much arachidonic acid that the body is filled with substances like PGE2. Then, it is out of balance, and blood clotting begins where it is not suppose to, such as inside blood vessels.

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