Omega-6 (n-6) and Omega-3 (n-3) are two essential fatty acids that are needed by the body. Linoleic Acid (LA) is a type of omega-6 fatty acid which can be found in vegetable oils. It is further converted to gamma-linoleic acid and then to arachidonic acid after consumption.
Researchers have proved that consumption of omega-3 fatty acid benefits a lot. But over-consumption of omega-6 fatty acids can cause serious health problems. There are very rare cases where deficiency of omega-6 is observed, because usually the diet that most people follow has a high amount of omega-6 fatty acids.
Balance of these two fatty acids in the body, is essential. To bring a balance in the fatty acid consumption, one should be aware of the foods rich in omega-3 and those that contain omega-6 fatty acids. A consumption ratio of 4:1, where 4 stands for omega-3 and 1 for omega-6 fatty acids, is usually recommended.
Omega-6 Foods List
As discussed earlier, the deficiency of omega-6 is a very rare problem. Though the suggested ratio is 4:1, the ratio observed in most diets is 1:20, which is not a way of a healthy lifestyle. Before we move on to know what health problems can be caused due to high amounts of omega-6, let us have a quick look at the list of foods high in omega-6 fatty acids.
Quantity of Omega-6 Fatty Acids (gm) in Various Food Items
- Safflower oil (1 tbsp)= 10.073
- Wheat germ oil (1 tbsp) 7.398
- Walnut oil (1 tbsp)= 7.141
- Sesame oil (cooking/salad) (1 tbsp)= 5.576
- Mayonnaise dressing (without cholesterol) (1 cup)= 96.956
- Margarine (hydrogenated 1 tbsp)= 1.642
- Olive oil (1 tbsp)= 1.318
- Turkey (1 ounce)= 5.936
- Chicken (1 ounce)= 5.461
- Almonds (grounded 1 cup)= 11.46
- Sunflower seed kernels (1 cup)= 46.07
- Walnut (chopped) (1 cup)= 41.30
- Peanut butter (1 cup)= 37.96
- Soybeans (1 cup)= 18.40
It is evident from the list, that both mayonnaise and cooking oils are high in omega-6 fatty acids. However, these are used in large quantities in foods that people consume these days, specially in the Western countries. It is observed that an average American consumes almost 10 times more than the required amount of omega-6 that he/she should consume.
Imbalance between omega-6 and omega-3 causes diseases like cardiovascular diseases, cancer, autoimmune diseases and inflammatory diseases. This is because eicosanoids obtained from omega-3 are anti-inflammatory, while those from omega-6 are pro-inflammatory. So, when the ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 is more than the standard ratio, it leads to inflammation.
To avoid these health problems, one should cut the consumption of omega-6. Not just omega-6, but any nutrient consumed in excess can cause health problems. Omega-6 has been proven to be useful in treating health problems like tuberculosis, eye diseases, anorexia nervosa, etc. Thus, the key to good health is to not consume these acids in a very large amounts.