Omega 6 Fatty Acids

Omega 6 fatty acids (n−6 fatty acids) are found primarily in seeds, raw nuts and in unsaturated vegetable oils such as Soybean Oil, Sesame Oil, Borage Oil, Primrose Oil and Grape Seed oil. This type of fat can generate both "good" and "bad" eicosanoids. Omega 6 fatty acids are essential fatty acids, which means that they are important and necessary to human wellbeing, nevertheless, it has to be sourced from diets because it cannot be successfully produced in the human body.

Alpha linolenic acid (ALA) and linoleic acid (LA) are both essential fatty acids that compete for metabolism through the enzyme delta-6 desaturase. Both delta-6 and delta-5 desaturase are found in humans.

Omega 6 Fatty Acids and Linoleic Acid Metabolic Pathway

Omega-6 Fatty Acid Metabolic Pathway

Linoleic Acid is regenerated into Gamma Linolenic Acid by the enzyme Delta 6 Desaturase.

    • To function properly Delta 6 Desaturase requires magnesium, Vitamin B6 and zinc.

The enzyme elongase helps the transformation of Dihomogamma Linoleic Acid from Gamma Linolenic Acid

Dihomogamma Linolenic Acid can be converted

  1. Into Arachidonic Acid by the enzyme Delta 5 Desaturase or

  2. Into anti-inflammatory Series 1 Prostaglandins.

    • To function properly Delta 5 Desaturase requires niacin, Vitamin C and zinc.

    • Delta 5 Desaturase has a greater chemical attractive force for converting Omega 3 oils over Omega 6 oils.

    • When converting omega 6 oils, it has a greater affinity to convert Dihomogamma Linolenic Acid to the anti-inflammatory Series 1 Prostaglandins over Arachidonic Acid.

    • Cyclo Oxygenase regenerates Arachidonic Acid into pro-inflammatory Series 2 Prostaglandins

Linoleic Acid of the Omega 6 family is found in Soybeans, Seeds, most plant oils (Canola, Corn, Sunflower, Safflower) and Nuts.

The Health and Lifestyle influences that can hinder the conversion process include:

  • Alcohol Consumption.

  • An immune dysfunction.

  • Diabetes.

  • A diet high in Trans Fatty Acids, Saturated Fats and Omega 6 Fatty Acids (Linoleic Acid).

  • A deficiency of a vitamin and/or mineral cofactors (vitamin C, B6, B3, magnesium and zinc).


Essential Fatty Acids are the cornerstone for prostaglandins which is a category of the body's hormones that regulate and control several bodily processes and functions as well as regulating the immune function, the cellular responses and hormone synthesis.

  • Series 1 Prostaglandins (PGE-1) is anti-inflammatory.

  • Series 2 Prostaglandins (PGE-2) is pro-inflammatory.

The Health Effects of PGE-1:

  • Dilate blood vessels.

  • Decrease blood clotting.

  • Decrease inflammation.

  • Reduce dangerous Low Density Lipoprotein (LDL) level.

  • Improve beneficial High Density Lipoprotein (HDL) level.

The Significance of the Omega 6/Omega 3 Fatty Acid Ratios

The modern western diets have excessive amounts of omega 6 fatty acids and a deficiency of omega 3 fatty acids. This is very different when compared to the Stone Age (paleolithic) diet on which human beings evolved.

Western diets get most of its calories from dairy products, wheat, potato and sugar. Is the western diet responsible for severe illnesses like diabetes, heart disease, cancer, degenerative disorder and obesity?

Modern studies on ancient tribes that continue to feed from the Stone Age (paleolithic) diet demonstrates that such tribes are not inflicted by cancer, diabetes, heart disease and obesity but rather live healthily to a great age.

Omega 6(n−6)/Omega 3 (n−3) Ratio

The optimal ratio of n−6/n−3 is thought to be 4 to 1. However, the ratio for western diets can be as high as 30 to 1 or as low as 10 to 1. The average ratio is 16.7 to 1.

Humans have evolved with a diet ratio of 1 to 1 to the modern day optimal ratio of about 4 to 1 or lower. Studies have shown that:

  • A ratio of 2 or 3 to 1 of n−6/n−3 helped reduce inflammation in patients with rheumatoid arthritis.
  • A ratio of 5 to 1 had a beneficial effect on patients with asthma while a 10 to 1 ratio had a negative effect.
  • Patients with colorectal cancer had a ratio of 4 to 1 which had no effect while a ratio of 2.5 to 1 reduced the rectal cell proliferation.

Excessive amounts of omega 6 fatty acids interfere with the health benefits of omega 3 fatty acids because they compete for the same enzymes. A very high proportion of n−6/n−3 ratio, as is found in today's western diets, shifts the physiological state in the tissues toward the pathogenesis of many diseases: proinflammatory, prothrombotic and proconstrictive.

An increased level of omega 3 fatty acids and a low n−6/n−3 ratio would alternatively exert suppressive effects on inflammatory and autoimmune diseases, cancer and cardiovascular disease.

Therefore, a lower ratio of n−6/n−3 fatty acids is more desirable in reducing the risk of many of the chronic diseases of high prevalence in Western societies.

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