Omega-3 (n-3) and omega-6 (n-6) 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.

Researches have proved that consumption of omega-3 fatty acid benefits a lot. But it has been observed that too much 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. Thus, a 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 1:4, where 1 stands for omega-6 and 4 for omega-3 fatty acids, is usually recommended.

Omega-6 Foods List

As discussed earlier, the deficiency of omega-6 is a very rare problem. Though the recommended ratio is 1:4, the ratio observed in most diets is 20:1, which is not a good sign 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 first have a quick look at the list of foods high in omega-6 fatty acids.

Food ItemQty.Omega-6 Fatty Acids (gm)
Safflower oil1 tbsp10.073
Wheat germ oil1 tbsp7.398
Walnut oil1 tbsp7.141
Sesame oil (cooking/salad)1 tbsp5.576
Mayonnaise dressing (without cholesterol)1 cup96.956
Margarine (hydrogenated)1 tsp1.642
Olive oil1 tbsp1.318
Turkey1 ounce5.936
Chicken1 ounce5.461
Almonds (grounded)1 cup11.46
Sunflower seed kernels1 cup46.07
Walnut (chopped)1 cup41.30
Peanut butter1 cup37.96
Soybeans1 cup18.40

Problems with Omega-6 Foods

It is evident from the list above, 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 ten times more than the required amount of omega-6 that he/she should consume. An imbalance between omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids causes health problems like cardiovascular diseases, cancer, autoimmune diseases and inflammatory diseases. This is because eicosanoids obtained from omega-3 fatty acids are anti-inflammatory, while those from omega-6 fatty acids are pro-inflammatory. Thus, 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 fatty acids.

Not just omega-6 fatty acids, 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.