Too much of a good thing is sometimes bad: 3 versus 6

ilamites By ilamites, 4th Jun 2011 | Follow this author | RSS Feed
Posted in Wikinut>Health>Diet & Nutrition

What is omega 6 and why do most people have too much of it?

What is omega 6 and why do most people have too much of it?

Omega 6 is an essential fatty acid used by the body to stimulate skin and hair growth, brain formation and growth, regulate metabolism, maintain bone health and the reproductive system. Omega 6 derived its name from its molecular structure- the carbon double bond is in the 6th carbon bond from the last or omega carbon. Omega 6 in food and in the body can exist in many forms. The most common forms are also called linoleic acid and arachidonic acid. These forms can be found in food such as nuts, cereals, eggs, poultry, meat, whole grains, acai berries, cashews, pumpkin seeds, baked goods, and certain oils like those from soybean, corn and cottonseed. Some food sources with omega 3 also have omega 6.

Consuming certain amounts of omega 6 foods is needed for health. In fact, some studies suggest that regulated amounts of omega 6 can be useful treatments for diabetic neuropathy, breast cancer, eczema, menopausal hot flashes, hypertension (high blood pressure), osteoporosis, premenstrual syndrome (PMS), mastalgia, multiple sclerosis, thrombosis, tumor proliferation, immune-inflammatory responses, attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), allergies, and rheumatoid arthritis.

Although Omega 6 is needed, having too much of it can be detrimental. A normal adult needs to maintain a 2:1 to 4:1 omega 6-to-omega 3 ratio for proper functioning. Children and lactating/breastfeeding mothers have different dosages. Since most diets today have a higher fat content, more populations have problems with over intake rather than deficiencies. The average diet contains 20:1 omega 6-to-omega 3 ratio- five times the recommended amount. Excessive intakes can lead to increased risk of seizures, increased weight, increased inflammation over inflamed areas, depression, certain forms of cancer, arrhythmia, mood disorders, arthritis, heart disease, and asthma. These diseases may be caused by the proinflammatory (stimulate inflammation), prothrombotic (increased risk of thrombus/blood clot formation), and proconstrictive (stimulate vascular/blood vessel constriction) actions of excess amounts of Omega 6. When supplements are needed, side effects such as nausea, headache, abdominal pain, and loose stools may occur. Also, those taking supplements or having excessive amounts in their bodies may have adverse reactions with drugs such as anesthetics, ceftazidine, cyclosporine, some chemotherapies, and blood thinners.

Much like most nutrient-related conditions, altering food intake, food choices, and certain physical activities are prescribed to achieve the healthy amount and utilization. Omega 3, the more popular essential fatty acid, is known as the ‘good cholesterol/fatty acid’. It fights off ‘bad cholesterol/fatty acid’ through competing with the metabolic enzymes and other resources fats need for storage, conversion, action, and mobilization. Since omega 3 has anti-inflammatory effects and competes with omega 6 metabolism, a diet richer in omega 3 is recommended against omega 6 overconsumption. Diets with more fresh fruits and vegetables, fish, olive oil, moderate wine consumption, and garlic helps balance out the tipped over ratio favoring omega 6, Increased physical activity can also help spend the stored omega 6 in deposited fat tissues. More aerobic activities like running/walking/jogging, cycling, and swimming temporarily raises heart rate, uses fats deposits as energy, and in effect, reduces the amount of omega 6 in the body. With essential fatty acids, it is not a matter of increasing omega 3 or decreasing omega 6 intakes, but a matter of correct balance of intake and storage.


Cholesterol Intake, Fat Intake Balanca, Omega 3, Omega 6

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author avatar ilamites
I'm a UP Manila BS Public Health degree. I dance and write a lot. I have scary big dreams. My materials would mostly be on either politics, arts or personal queries.

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