Omega-6 fatty acids, just like omega-3 fatty acids, are types of essential polyunsaturated fats. Your body can't produce them, so you have to get them from your diet. Omega-6's regulate your metabolism, keep your bones strong, help your reproductive system function, and stimulate hair and skin growth. While omega-3 fats tend to be anti-inflammatory, omega-6 fats can cause inflammation. Too many omega-6 fats might lead to metabolic disorders, including insulin resistance and obesity. It's important to have the proper ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids. Ideally, the ratio should be 4:1/omega-6:omega-3; but according to a 2010 study published in the "Journal of Lipid Research," the typical ratio is closer to 15:1 -- which can come from a combination of omega-3 deficiency and too much omega-6 fats in your diet.
Substitute olive oil for corn and soybean oils. Corn, soybean and safflower oils are very high in omega-6 fatty acids. Olive oil is a monounsaturated fat and low in omega-6 fatty acids. In addition, The University of Maryland Medical Center notes that people following a Mediterranean-style diet, which includes fish, vegetables, fruits, whole grains and olive oil, have a healthier balance of omega-3 and omega-6 fats and have a lower risk of developing heart disease.
Limit sesame, pumpkin, walnut, wheatgerm and evening primrose oils. One of the reasons for the recent increase in omega-6 consumption is the prevalence of vegetable oils in the Western diet. Solid saturated fats, such as butter and lard, have been replaced by vegetable oils high in omega-6.
Eat foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids. Improving your omega-6:omega-3 ratio is a two-part process -- lowering your omega-6 intake while increasing your omega-3 intake. Eat coldwater fatty fish, such as wild salmon, mackerel, herring and lake trout. If you're a vegetarian, flaxseed and walnuts are rich sources of omega-3's. You could also consider taking a fish oil supplement.
- University of Maryland Medical Center: Omega-6 Fatty Acids
- Science Daily; "Excessive Intake of Omega-6 and Deficiencies in Omega-3 Induce Obesity Down the Generations"; July 27, 2010
- Center for Genetics, Nutrition and Health; "Importance of the Ratio of Omega-6/Omega-3 Essential Fatty Acids"; A.P. Simopoulos; October 2002