Omega 6 is a fatty acid, and, more specifically, it is a polyunsaturated fat. Omega 6 acids are made from chains of carbon atoms, and these chains are identifiable as omega 6 chains because they are bound together by a double bond. Omega 6 fatty acids come in three main types, namely, LA, GLA and AA. LA, or linoleic acid, is made from a chain of 18 carbon molecules. GLA is also made from an 18-carbon chain. GLA stands for gamma-linolenic acid. GLA and LA are, at first sight, very similar to each other indeed. However, scientists categorize them as different types of omega 6 fatty acids because they come from different sources. Finally, AA, which is short for arachidonic acid, is made up of a chain of 20 carbon atoms.
The Sources of Omega 6
Omega 6 fatty acids come from both plant and animal proteins, including chicken, dairy (e.g. yogurt and milk), eggs and soy protein. It is worth noting, however, that LA, GLA and AA all come from different sources. LA is predominantly found in plant oils such as canola oil, soybean oil and peanut oil. Consuming too much LA can have an adverse effect on the health (causing issues such as heart disease, asthma and arthritis due to its inflammatory qualities), so it is important not to consume the above mentioned plant and nut based oils to excess. GLA is found in other, rarer, types of vegetable oil such as evening primrose oil. Because these oils are rarely consumed as part of the human diet, they are often purchased as supplements and consumed that way. Finally, AA is present in a variety of animal sources, especially in poultry, eggs and red meat.
Health Benefits of Omega 6 Fatty Acids
Of all of the types of omega 6 fatty acids, GLA has the most health benefits. This is because it has anti inflammatory properties and so can help to combat heart disease, arthritis and other issues that are caused by inflammation of the arteries or joints. Unfortunately, GLA is not one of the most readily available types of omega 6 fatty acid, which is why many people take GLA supplements.
Moreover, it is important to get a good balance of omega 6 and omega 3 fatty acids in order to reap the maximum benefit from omega 6 consumption. This is because excessive amounts of omega 6 can actually have an adverse effect on health. Scientists recommend that everyone consumes between 7 and 16 grams of omega 6 fatty acids per day (with the amount depending on the person’s age and gender) and 0.7 and 1.6 grams of omega 3 fatty acids every day (again, the precise amount will depend on the age and gender of the person in question).
An average US citizen eating an average US diet will easily hit the upper limit for recommended omega 6 fatty acid consumption every day. In fact, most people in the US are consuming omega 6 to excess on a daily basis, and so it is worth while cutting back on omega 6 and consuming more omega 3 in order to get the balance right and thus to experience the anti inflammatory properties of GLA.