Omega 6 Fats Don’t Cause Inflammation?

I’ve written about the Nutrition Action Healthletter several times before. The Healthletter is a publication of the Center for Science in the Public Interest, a non-profit health watchdog organization. Anyway, in the June 2012 Healthletter, it was clearly stated that one of the top nutrition myths today is that omega 6 fats cause inflammation. The Healthletter clearly stated that omega 6 fats don’t cause inflammation and they actually are heart protective (read more from the CSPI here).

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The Omega 6 Question

Saying that omega 6 is good for you and not to be cautious about consuming it disagrees with what I’ve read in many many places over the past several years. In fact, if you Google “omega 6 fats and inflammation,” you will find a litany of pages directly blaming omega 6 fats for inflammation and suggesting that they contribute to all matter of problems from heart disease to diabetes to cancer.

One thing that is true is that omega 6 fats are necessary – they’re an essential fatty acid. What’s not clear right away is how much is enough and which ones are best.

Where are the Fats?

Where do you find omega 6 fats? How about omega 3s? Here’s a short list. All of these sources have both omega 6 and omega 3 fats, but in varying ratios.

Omega 6 Sources: Safflower oil, sunflower oil, corn oil, soybean oil, sunflower seeds, walnuts, pumpkin seeds

Omega 3 Sources: Oily fish such as salmon, herring, mackerel, and sardines; fish oil and flaxseed oil; flaxseeds, walnuts, and chia seeds

What about Calories?

A Harvard Medical School article says that you should not cut back on omega 6s, but that you should add more omega 3 fats to keep the two in balance. If a person is using cups of mayonnaise for sandwiches and huge ladles of salad dressing is that still true? In my mind, caloric intake is the first concern. Overeating calories is the number one dietary risk factor as far as I can tell from my large history of nutrition study and fats are more than TWICE as calorie dense as carbohydrates and proteins.

The Final Analysis

What I’ve decided for now is:

  1. Eating a moderate amount of omega 6 fats is OK. Slathering on the salad dressing by the gallon, not so good. Cut back if you overindulge in fat of any kind for simple caloric intake considerations.
  2. Beware of how your fats are delivered. Whether it’s omega 3, 6, or 9, if your potato chips are fried in them or your oversized bowls of vegan ice cream are made with them, it doesn’t really matter what kind of fat you’re getting because you’re probably getting too much refined food product in your system along with your oils.
  3. Eat more omega 3 fats from the sources listed above. Omega 3s have numerous benefits.
  4. If you follow the steps above don’t worry about the omega 6 consumption. It would seem that the stress of worry will do more damage and create more inflammation than the omega 6s.
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4 thoughts on “Omega 6 Fats Don’t Cause Inflammation?

  1. This is a really good assessment in my opinion about the omega-6/omega-3 relationship. I was a little taken back by CSPI’s inclusion of the myth that omega-6 fats do not promote inflammation. It’s the balance that’s important and your warning is justified until we know more about this process.

    • Thanks. It’s an area I have a lot to learn about. And there’s a lot of people trying to promote themselves as experts but who are also sharing an incomplete picture.

  2. Pingback: Diet and Inflammation: Is There A Connection? | FOOD, FACTS and FADS

  3. We’ve known from the 1970’s that polyunsaturated fatty acids are prone to oxidation when exposed to oxygen and UV radiation. Polyunsaturated fatty acids oxidize during the production of seed oils and produce inflammatory lipid products known as peroxides and hydroperoxides.

    Omega 3 fatty acids are 100 times more prone to oxidation than Omega 6 fatty acids.

    Lipid Peroxidation.
    Autoxidation.

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