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Omega-6 fatty acids are important for the growth and development of infants, and are a precursor for a hormone-like substance called prostaglandins, which cause the smooth muscle cells in your veins to constrict or dilate, cause your platelets to clump or break apart, sensitize spinal neurons to pain, induce labor, decrease intraocular pressure, regulate inflammation, regulate calcium movement, control hormone regulation, control cell growth, cause your hypothalamus to produce fever, increase the filtration rate in your kidneys, and act on cells in your stomach wall to inhibit acid secretion. Dietary sources of Omega-6 fatty acids include vegetable oils such as corn oil and soy oil -- they contain a high proportion of linoleic acid. Omega-6 acids also come from cereals, whole-grain breads, eggs and poultry, etc.

  • Linoleic acid (LA) is the major essential omega-6 fatty acid, and it provides a natural defense against such diseases as cancer, rheumatoid Arthritis, eczema, psoriasis, diabetic neuropathy and premenstrual syndrome (PMS). Linoleic acid is found in leafy vegetables, seeds, nuts, and grains, and is especially high in Brazil nuts, pine nuts, sunflower seeds, and pecans.
  • Gamma linolenic acid (GLA) is converted by your body from LA. Although most Americans consume large amounts of omega-6 in the form of LA, it may not be converted to GLA because of metabolic problems associated with Diabetes, alcohol consumption, trans fatty acids in processed foods, smoking, stress, or illness. For people have trouble converting LA, GLA can be found in rare oils, including black currant, borage, evening primrose, and hemp oils.

Note that Omega-3 fatty acids are the "really good" ones we often don't get enough of. Many people have taken to eating more fish or taking fish oil supplements to get more Omega-3s in their diet. However, it's important to note that the fish get their omega-3s from eating algae, so eating omega-3s in fish or fish oil is not necessary.

While most of us don't typically need supplements or added oils to obtain enough essential fatty acids, we should eat good sources of omega-3 and omega-6 fats daily. An appropriate balance of these essential fatty acids is also important for health. The proper ratio of omega-3 to omega-6 is between 1:1 and 1:4, but Americans tend to have anywhere from 10 to 30 times the amount of omega-6, due to the large amounts of animal products, oils, fast foods, processed foods, and fried foods they eat.

Omega-6 fatty acids compete with omega-3 fatty acids in your body, so eating too many omega-6 fatty acids, the result is a silent inflammation that you can't feel. This chronic inflammation can cause cardiovascular disease, cancer, and inflammatory and autoimmune diseases, including diabetes. To maintain balance, avoid animal fats, trans fats, and refined oils, especially those high in omega-6 such as corn, soy, safflower, sunflower, most vegetable oil blends (typically labeled "vegetable oil"), and sesame oil. Instead, use a tiny amount of low omega-6 oil like olive oil, or saute in a small amount of water or broth. Use applesauce in place of fat in baked treats. Every day, sprinkle some chopped raw English walnuts and raw ground flax seeds on your salad for omega-3 fatty acids. Consider including chlorella in your diet or supplement routine. Chlorella is high in EPA and DHA, which your body may have trouble producing in sufficient quantities.

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Q: What are omega-6 fatty acids?
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