Articles

Omega-6 Fatty Acids

Introduction

Omega-6 is an essential fatty acid. Several other fats are derived from omega-6 including gamma-linolenic acid (GLA), dihomogamma-linolenic acid (DGLA), and arachidonic acid (AA). Collectively, these fats make up the omega-6 family of fatty acids.

While many scientists believe that severe deficiencies of omega-3 fatty acids exist in the United States, the same cannot be said of omega-6. By some estimates, many Americans consume 30 times more omega-6 fatty acids than omega-3. This is because so many of the common vegetable oils in the American diet—such as corn, safflower and sunflower oils— are packed with omega-6. Scientists believe that such large quantities of omega-6 in the body may trigger inflammation, sensitivity to pain and thickening of the blood.

In addition to the common vegetable oils mentioned above, omega-6 fatty acids can be found in evening primrose oil, black currant seed oil, and borage oil, as well as meats, milk, and eggs.

Dosage Info

Dosage Range

50-300mg daily of gamma linolenic acid (GLA).

Most Common Dosage

120mg daily of gamma linolenic acid (GLA).

Dosage Forms

Liquid, capsules, and tablets.

Interactions and Depletions

Interactions

Reported Uses

Omega-6 fatty acids are one of the structural components in cell walls and membranes throughout the body. They are also involved in a complex interaction that leads to the production of prostoglandins in the body. The body uses prostoglandins to control inflammation, dilate blood vessels, and regulate immune function.

Researchers think alcohol inhibits the body’s ability to convert omega-6 fatty acid to GLA. Supplementation may in fact help people overcome addiction to alcohol while lessening withdrawal symptoms. (1) , (2) Studies suggest that diabetics may also have trouble converting omega-6 to GLA. This may lead to brain disorders associated with the disease. Supplementation may lessen these effects. (3) , (4) Results of a study found that supplementation with borage oil, a source of omega-6, (GLA), decreased periodontitis symptoms in patients suffering from this condition. (5)

Eczema, immune dysfunction, and PMS symptoms have also been associated with poor conversion of omega-6 to GLA. (6) , (7) Studies involving GLA in the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis have shown potential for reducing pain and swelling. (8) And finally, studies suggest that women who suffer from painful breasts may be supported by GLA. (9) , (10)

Toxicities & Precautions

Introduction

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General

This dietary supplement is considered safe when used in accordance with proper dosing guidelines.

Pregnancy / Breast Feeding

To date, the medical literature has not reported any adverse effects related to fetal development during pregnancy or to infants who are breast-fed. Yet little is known about the use of this dietary supplement while pregnant or breast-feeding. Therefore, it is recommended that you inform your healthcare practitioner of any dietary supplements you are using while pregnant or breast-feeding.

Age Limitations

To date, the medical literature has not reported any adverse effects specifically related to the use of this dietary supplement in children. Since young children may have undiagnosed allergies or medical conditions, this dietary supplement should not be used in children under 10 years of age unless recommended by a physician.

References

  1. View Abstract: Horrobin DF. Essential Fatty Acids, Prostaglandins, and Alcoholism: An Overview. Alcohol Clin Exp Res. Feb1987;11(1):2-9.
  2. Segarnick DJ. Biochemical and Behavioral Interactions Between Prostaglandin E1 and Alcohol. Clinical Uses of Essential Fatty Acids. New York: Eden Press; 1982:199-204.
  3. View Abstract: Horrobin DF. Essential Fatty Acids in the Management of Impaired Nerve Function in Diabetes. Diabetes. Sep1997;46(Suppl 2):S90-93.
  4. View Abstract: Jamal GA, et al. The Effect of Gamma-linolenic Acid on Human Diabetic Peripheral Neuropathy: A Double-blind Placebo-controlled Trial. Diabet Med. May1990;7(4):319-23.
  5. View Abstract: Rosenstein ED, Kushner LJ, Kramer N, Kazandjian G. Pilot study of dietary fatty acid supplementation in the treatment of adult periodontitis. Prostaglandins Leukot Essent Fatty Acids. Mar2003;68(3):213-8.
  6. View Abstract: Horrobin DF. Fatty Acid Metabolism in Health and Disease: The Role of Delta-6-desaturase. Am J Clin Nutr. May1993;57(5 Suppl):732S-736S.
  7. View Abstract: Brush MG, et al. Abnormal Essential Fatty Acid Levels in Plasma of Women with Premenstrual Syndrome. Am J Obstet Gynecol. Oct1984;150(4):363-66.
  8. View Abstract: Leventhal LJ, et al. Treatment of Rheumatoid Arthritis with Gammalinolenic Acid. Ann Intern Med. Nov1993;119(9):867-73.
  9. View Abstract: Holland PA, et al. Drug Therapy of Mastalgia. What are the Options? Drugs. Nov1994;48(5):709-16.
  10. View Abstract: Pye JK, et al. Clinical Experience of Drug Treatments for Mastalgia. Lancet. Aug1985;2(8451):373-77.