EFA (Essential Fatty Acid)
Type 6 Requirement

EFA (Essential Fatty Acid) Type 6 Requirement: Overview

Alternative names: EFA Type 6, Omega-6 Fatty Acids, Omega-6 Fats, Omega-6, LA, N-6 fats, Linoleic Acid

Essential Fatty Acid Type 6, or Omega-6, is one of two fatty acids that are essential to human health because they cannot be synthesized by the body (the other is Omega-3).

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One less common Omega-6, called Gamma Linolenic Acid (GLA), possesses an impressive set of disease-fighting properties as well as being anti-inflammatory.

It is important to note that both Omega-6 and Omega-3 require the same enzymes in the body to be utilized efficiently.  Therefore a very high intake of Omega-6 can result in a deficiency of Omega-3 regardless of how much is consumed because there are insufficient enzymes to manage both the excess Omega-6 and the necessary Omega-3. The ideal ratio of Omega-6 to Omega-3 intake is 2:1.

The Omega-6 family of polyunsaturates includes linoleic acid (LA) and its derivatives, including the down-line metabolites gamma-linoleic acid (GLA), dihomo-gamma-linolenic acid (DGLA), and arachidonic acid (AA).

If LA is provided by foods, our cells make GLA, DGLA, and AA.  Omega-6 conversion can be inhibited by bad fats (margarines, shortenings, trans-fatty acids, hard fats, sugar and cholesterol), lack of minerals (magnesium, selenium, zinc), vitamin deficiencies (B3, B6, C, E), viruses, obesity, diabetes, aging, and rare genetic mutations.  In such situations, oil containing Omega-6 derivatives can help.

Incidence; Causes and Development; Contributing Risk Factors

Omega-6 deficiency is very rare.  Most people receive more than adequate amounts of Omega-6 from their diet – often far too much.  This is because Omega-6 occurs naturally in many cooking oils.

A Omega-6 deficiency can be a result of inadequate dietary intake or the body being unable to metabolize fats efficiently.  Poor fat metabolism can be due to genetic predispositions or inadequate vitamins and minerals being available to support the conversion.

Individuals with fat malabsorption issues are at higher risk of Omega-6 deficiency.

Signs and Symptoms

There are several sings of an Omega-6 deficiency, including:

Diagnosis and Tests

Laboratory test used to confirm Omega-6 deficiency include the 'Red Blood Cell Fatty Acid Analysis' or the 'Fatty Acid Profile'.  A home test kit called 'Opti-O-3' is available, using a small finger prick test to provide a full fatty acid profile.

Treatment and Prevention

Treatment of an Omega-6 deficiency involves reversing the deficiency through diet or, if necessary, supplements which can be oral, topical medications or infused directly into the blood.  Some of the best dietary sources of Omega-6 include:

  • Flaxseed
  • Soybean oil
  • Sunflower oil
  • Safflower oil
  • Corn oil
  • Hempseed
  • Pumpkin seed
  • Olive oil
  • Wheatgerm
  • Grapeseed oil
  • Pistachios
  • Sesame oil
  • Chia seed oil
  • Cottonseed oil

Specific types of Omega-6 fatty acids can be found in the following:

  • Linoleic Acid: soybean oil, corn oil, safflower oil, sunflower oil, peanut oil, cottonseed oil and rice bran oil
  • Arachidonic Acid: peanut oil, meat, eggs and dairy
  • GLA: hemp seeds, spirulina, evening primrose oil, borage oil, black currant seed oil
  • DGLA: mother's milk

Prognosis; Complications

A chronic deficiency, left untreated, will lead to inefficient functioning of the body.

Below are some of the risks associated with an ongoing Omega-6 deficiency:

Signs, symptoms & indicators of EFA (Essential Fatty Acid) Type 6 Requirement:

Symptoms - Hair

Symptoms - Skin - General

Risk factors for EFA (Essential Fatty Acid) Type 6 Requirement:

Symptoms - Food - Intake

Counter-indicators
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EFA (Essential Fatty Acid) Type 6 Requirement suggests the following may be present:

Nutrients

Recommendations for EFA (Essential Fatty Acid) Type 6 Requirement:

Supplements

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