Omega-6 fatty acids are considered essential fatty acids: They are necessary for human health but as body does not manufacture these, the only way is to get them through food. A healthy diet contains a balance of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. Along with omega-3 fatty acids, omega-6 fatty acids play a crucial role in brain function as well as normal growth and development. Also known as polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs), they help stimulate skin and hair growth, maintain bone health, regulate metabolism, and maintain the reproductive system.

There are several different types of omega-6 fatty acids, and not all promote inflammation. Most omega-6 fatty acids in the diet come from vegetable oils as linoleic acid (LA). Be careful not to confuse this with alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), an omega-3 fatty acid. GLA can be gotten from several plant-based oils including evening primrose oil (EPO), borage oil, and black currant seed oil. Gamma-linolenic acid (GLA) may actually reduce inflammation. Much of the GLA taken as a supplement is converted to a substance called DGLA that fights inflammation. Having enough of certain nutrients in the body (including magnesium, zinc, and vitamins C, B3, and B6) helps promote the conversion of GLA to DGLA.

What is Omega 6?

The chemical structure of linoleic acid, a common n−6 fatty acid found in many vegetable oils.

Omega-6 fatty acids are common fats that most people consume regularly. These include fatty acids like linoleic acid, and arachidonic acid. Such acids are called omega-6 because of chemical composition, which includes a carbon double bond six carbons distance from the omega or last carbon in a chain. The name indicates where the double bonds occur in the chain of fatty acids.

How is it Made?
Linoleic acid is converted to gamma-linolenic acid (GLA) in the body. It is then further broken down to arachidonic acid (AA).

Where is it Found?
Dietary sources of n−6 fatty acids include poultry, eggs, avocado, nuts, cereals, whole-grain, breads, most vegetable oils, evening primrose oil, borage oil, blackcurrant seed oil, flax/linseed oil, rapeseed or canola oil, hemp oil, soybean oil, cottonseed oil, sunflower seed oil, corn oil, safflower oil, pumpkin seeds, acai berry, cashews etc.

Product related PDF file

Essential Fatty Acids

Essential fatty acids


Benefits / Uses
Diabetic neuropathy
Some studies show that taking gamma linolenic acid (GLA) for 6 months or more may reduce symptoms of nerve pain in people with diabetic neuropathy. People who have good blood sugar control may find GLA more effective than those with poor blood sugar control.

Rheumatoid arthritis
Studies are mixed as to whether evening primrose oil helps reduce symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis. Some preliminary evidence suggests evening primrose oil may reduce pain, swelling, and morning stiffness; but other studies have found no effect. When using GLA for symptoms of arthritis, it may take 1 - 3 months for benefits to appear. It is unlikely that evening primrose oil would help stop progression of the disease, so joint damage would still occur.

There is some evidence that people who are allergy prone can benefit from an increased intake of essential fatty acids. Several home remedies use omega 6 for this purpose.

Attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
Clinical studies suggest that children with ADHD have lower levels of EFAs, both omega-6s and omega-3s. EFAs are important to normal brain and behavioral function. Some studies seem to indicate that taking fish oil (containing omega-3 fatty acids) may help reduce ADHD symptoms, though the studies have not been well designed. Studies that used evening primrose oil have found it was no better than placebo at reducing symptoms.

Breast cancer
One study found that women with breast cancer who took GLA had a better response to tamoxifen (a drug used to treat estrogen-sensitive breast cancer) than those who took only tamoxifen.

Evidence is mixed as to whether evening primrose oil can help reduce symptoms of eczema. Some early studies found benefit, but they were not well designed. Later studies that examined people who took evening primrose oil for 16 to 24 weeks found no improvement in symptoms. If you want to try evening primrose oil, talk to your health care provider about whether it is safe for you to try.

High blood pressure (Hypertension)
There is some preliminary evidence that GLA may help reduce high blood pressure, either alone or in combination with omega-3 fatty acids eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), found in fish oil. In one study, men with borderline high blood pressure who took 6g of blackcurrant oil had a reduction in diastolic blood pressure compared to those who took placebo.

Another study examined people with intermittent claudication, pain in the legs while walking that is caused by blockages in the blood vessels. Those who took GLA combined with EPA had a reduction in systolic blood pressure compared to those who took placebo.
More research is needed to see whether GLA is truly effective for hypertension.

Menopausal symptoms
Evening primrose oil has gained popularity as a way to treat hot flashes associated with menopause, but so far studies have not shown that it works. If you want to try evening primrose oil for hot flashes and night sweats, ask your health care provider whether it is safe and right for you.

Some evidence suggests that evening primrose oil may reduce breast pain and tenderness in people with cyclic mastalgia. It may also help reduce symptoms to a lesser extent in people with non-cyclic mastalgia. However, it does not seem to be effective for severe breast pain.

Multiple Sclerosis
Evening primrose oil has been suggested as an additional treatment (in addition to standard therapy) for multiple sclerosis (MS) although there is no scientific evidence that it works. MS patients who want to add evening primrose oil to their treatment regimens should talk with a health care provider.

Omega 6 is an important part of what helps maintain strong and healthy bones in your body. When your body is omega 6 deficient, it can result in bone loss and a health condition known as osteoporosis. Additionally, bones need calcium to be strong and maintain their density. Omega 6 facilitates bone growth and strength by enhancing their ability to absorb calcium.

Premenstrual syndrome (PMS)
Some women use evening primrose oil, an omega 6 supplement, to relieve the pain of breast tenderness before their period. This supplement has also been used to treat other symptoms of premenstrual syndrome (PMS), including irritability and bloating caused by fluid retention. Clinical studies have been conducted on the effectiveness of omega 6 to relieve PMS and have shown varying results.

For general health, there should be a balance between omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids. The ratio should be in the range of 2:1 - 4:1, omega-6 to omega-3. The average diet provides plenty of omega-6 fatty acids, so supplements are usually not necessary.
People with specific conditions such as eczema or psoriasis, arthritis, diabetes, or breast tenderness (mastalgia) may want to ask their health care providers about taking omega-6 supplements.

For general health, there should be a balance between omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids. The ratio should be in the range of 2:1 - 4:1, omega-6 to omega-3. The average diet provides sufficient omega-6 fatty acids, so supplementation is usually not necessary unless treating for a specific condition such as eczema or psoriasis, arthritis, diabetes, or breast tenderness (mastalgia).

For nursing infants: There are enough essential fatty acids in breast milk if the mother is eating a healthy diet.
For eczema in children 2 - 18 years of age: Evening primrose oil, 3 grams daily, divided into several smaller doses throughout the day. It is reported that the maximum dose should not be greater than 0.5 gram per kilogram of body weight daily. Do not give supplements to a child without first talking to your doctor.


arw For eczema or atopic dermatitis: Evening primrose oil, 4,000 - 8,000 mg daily, or gamma-linolenic acid (GLA), 2,800 mg daily, both divided into several smaller doses throughout the day.

arw For rheumatoid arthritis: Evening primrose oil, 3,000 mg daily, or GLA, 1,400 mg daily, both divided into several smaller doses throughout the day.

arw For diabetes: GLA, 480 mg daily, divided into several smaller doses throughout the day.

arw For breast tenderness (mastalgia) or PMS: Evening primrose oil, 3,000 - 4,000 mg daily, divided into several smaller doses throughout the day.
Possible Side-Effects / Precautions / Possible Interactions

arw Do not take omega-6 if you have a seizure disorder because there have been reports of these supplements causing seizures. Several reports describe seizures in people taking evening primrose oil. Some of these seizures developed in people with a previous seizure disorder, or in people taking evening primrose oil in combination with anesthetics.

arw People who plan to undergo surgery requiring anesthesia should stop taking evening primrose oil 2 weeks ahead of time.

arw Borage seed oil, and possibly other sources of gamma-linolenic acid (GLA), should not be taken during pregnancy because they may harm the fetus and induce early labor.

arw Avoid doses of GLA greater than 3,000 mg per day. At that level, an increase in inflammation may occur.

arw Side-effects of evening primrose oil can include occasional headache, abdominal pain, nausea, and loose stools. In animal studies, GLA is reported to decrease blood pressure. Early results in human studies do not show consistent changes in blood pressure.
Possible Interactions
If you are currently being treated with any of the following medications you should not use omega-6 supplements without first talking to your health care provider.

Blood thinning medications -- People taking blood thinning medications, including warfarin (Coumadin) or clopidogrel (Plavix) should not take omega-6 fatty acid supplements without consulting a health care provider. Omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids may increase the risk of bleeding.

Ceftazidime -- Gamma linolenic acid (GLA) may increase the effectiveness of ceftazidime. Ceftazidinme, an antibiotic, is used against a variety of bacterial infections.

Chemotherapy for cancer -- GLA may increase the effects of anti-cancer treatments, such as doxorubicin, cisplatin, carboplatin, idarubicin, mitoxantrone, tamoxifen, vincristine, and vinblastine.

Cyclosporine -- Cyclosporine is a medication used to suppress the immune system after organ transplant. Taking omega-6 fatty acids with cyclosporine may increase the immunosuppressive effects of this medication. It may also protect against kidney damage (a potential side effect from this medication).

Phenothiazines -- People taking a class of medications called phenothiazines to treat schizophrenia should not take evening primrose oil. Evening primrose oil may interact with these medications and increase the risk of seizures. The same may be true for other omega-6 supplements. These medications include:

arw Chlorpromazine (Thorazine)

arw Fluphenazine (Stelazine)

arw Perphenazine (Trilafon)

arw Promethazine (Compazine)

arw Thioridazine (Mellaril)
Research Studies / References

arw Lands, William E.M. (December 2005). "Dietary fat and health: the evidence and the politics of prevention: careful use of dietary fats can improve life and prevent disease". Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences (Blackwell) 1055: 179-192. doi:10.1196/annals.1323.028. PMID 16387724.

arw Hibbeln, Joseph R.; N; B; R; L; Nieminen, Levi R.G.; Blasbalg, Tanya L.; Riggs, Jessica A.; and William E.M. Lands (June 1, 2006). "Healthy intakes of n−3 and n−6 fatty acids: estimations considering worldwide diversity". American Journal of Clinical Nutrition (American Society for Nutrition) 83 (6, supplement): 1483S-1493S. PMID 16841858.

arw Okuyama, Hirohmi; Ichikawa, Yuko; Sun, Yueji; Hamazaki, Tomohito; Lands, William E.M. (2007). "ω3 fatty acids effectively prevent coronary heart disease and other late-onset diseases: the excessive linoleic acid syndrome". World Review of Nutritional Dietetics (Karger) 96 (Prevention of Coronary Heart Disease): 83-103. doi:10.1159/000097809. ISBN 3805581793. PMID 17167282.

arw Daley, C.A.; Abbott, A.; Doyle, P.; Nader, G.; and Larson, S. (2004). A literature review of the value-added nutrients found in grass-fed beef products. California State University, Chico (College of Agriculture). Retrieved 2008-03-23.

arw Simopoulos, Artemis P. (October 2002). "The importance of the ratio of omega-6/omega-3 essential fatty acids". Biomedicine & Pharmacotherapy 56 (8): 365-379. doi:10.1016/S0753-3322(02)00253-6. PMID 12442909.

arw Simopoulos, Artemis P. (September 2003). "Importance of the ratio of omega-6/omega-3 essential fatty acids: evolutionary aspects". World Review of Nutrition and Dietetics (Karger) 92 (Omega-6/Omega-3 Essential Fatty Acid Ratio: The Scientific Evidence): 1-174. doi:10.1159/000073788. ISBN 3805576404. PMID 14579680.

arw Calder, Philip C. (June 1, 2006). "n−3 polyunsaturated fatty acids, inflammation, and inflammatory diseases". American Journal of Clinical Nutrition (American Society for Nutrition) 83 (6, supplement): 1505S-1519S. PMID 16841861.

arw ^ Smith, William L. (January 2008). "Nutritionally essential fatty acids and biologically indispensable cyclooxygenases". Trends in Biochemical Sciences (Elsevier) 33 (1): 27-37. doi:10.1016/j.tibs.2007.09.013. PMID 18155912.

arw ^ Wada, M.; Delong, CJ; Hong, YH; Rieke, CJ; Song, I; Sidhu, RS; Yuan, C; Warnock, M et al. (August 3 2007). "Enzymes and receptors of prostaglandin pathways with arachidonic acid-derived versus eicosapentaenoic acid-derived substrates and products. Nutritionally essential fatty acids and biologically indispensable cyclooxygenases". J. Biol. Chem. (ASBMB) 282 (31): 22254-22266. doi:10.1074/jbc.M703169200. PMID 17519235.

arw Cleland, Leslie G.; James, Michael J.; Proudman, Susanna M. (January 2006). "Fish oil: what the prescriber needs to know". Arthritis Research & Therapy (BioMed Central) 8 (1): 202. doi:10.1186/ar1876. PMID 16542466. PMC 1526555.

arw Mickleborough, Timothy D. (June 2005). "Dietary omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acid supplementation and airway hyperresponsiveness in asthma". The Journal of Asthma (Informa Healthcare) 42 (5): 305-314. doi:10.1081/JAS-200062950. PMID 16036405.

arw Broughton, K. Shane; Johnson, Cody S.; Pace, Bobin K.; Liebman, Michael; Kleppinger, Kent M. (April 1, 2005). "Reduced asthma symptoms with n−3 fatty acid ingestion are related to 5-series leukotriene production". American Journal of Clinical Nutrition (American Society for Nutrition) 65 (4): 1011-1017. PMID 9094887.

arw Lee, H.J.; Rao, J.S.; Rapoport, S.I.; Bazinet, R.P. (November 2007). "Antimanic therapies target brain arachidonic acid signaling: lessons learned about the regulation of brain fatty acid metabolism". Prostaglandins, Leukotrienes and Essential Fatty Acids (Elsevier) 77 (5): 239-246. doi:10.1016/j.plefa.2007.10.018. PMID 18042366.

arw Emily Sonestedt, Ulrika Ericson, Bo Gullberg, Kerstin Skog, Håkan Olsson, Elisabet Wirfält (2008). "Do both heterocyclic amines and omega-6 polyunsaturated fatty acids contribute to the incidence of breast cancer in postmenopausal women of the Malmö diet and cancer cohort?". The International Journal of Cancer (UICC International Union Against Cancer) 123 (7): 1637-1643. doi:10.1002/ijc.23394. PMID 10970215. Retrieved 2008-11-30.

arw Yong Q. Chen, at al (2007). "Modulation of prostate cancer genetic risk by omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids". The Journal of Clinical Investigation 117 (7): 1866-1875. doi:10.1172/JCI31494. PMID 17607361. PMC 1890998.

arw Retrieved 2008-11-30.
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arw Cunnane, Stephen C. (November 2003). "Problems with essential fatty acids: time for a new paradigm?". Progress in Lipid Research 42 (6): 544-568. doi:10.1016/S0163-7827(03)00038-9. PMID 14559071.

arw Gunstone, Frank (December 2007) "Oilseed markets: Market update: Palm oil". INFORM (AOCS) 18(12): 835-836.

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