AHA Says Omega 6 Fatty Acid Cuts Heart Disease

Kathleen Blanchard's picture
Omega-6 and heart disease

According to new information from the American Heart Association, we should be getting five percent of our calories from Omega 6 fatty acids to reduce our risk of heart disease.

The advisory about the heart healthy benefits of Omega 6, combined with Omega 3 fatty acids, or PUFA's (polyunsaturated fatty acids), appears in Circulation: Journal of the American Heart Association.

According to the recommendations, PUFA's are "essential" for good health. The role of Omega 6 fatty acids has been perceived as damaging to blood vessels, stemming from the belief that they might promote inflammation and heart disease.

According to William Harris, Ph.D., lead author of the advisory, "That idea is based more on assumptions and extrapolations than on hard data." Dr. Harris is a research professor for the Sanford School of Medicine at the University of South Dakota and director of the Metabolism and Nutrition Research Center at Sanford Research/USD, explaining that the body converts linoleic acid (LA) from Omega 6 fatty acids in food is converted to arachidonic acid (AA). Arachidonic acid has been associated with early inflammation that can lead to heart disease.


Dr. Harris explains "Eating less LA will not lower tissue levels of AA (the usual rationale for reducing LA intakes) because the body tightly regulates the synthesis of AA from LA", and the result actually reduces inflammation and lowers heart disease risk when we add Omega 6 fatty acids to our diet. According to Dr. Harris…"it is incorrect to view the omega-6 fatty acids as 'pro-inflammatory.'"

Study reviews show that replacing saturated fat with Omega 6 fatty acid (PUFA) lowers the risk of heart disease by 24%. "When saturated fat in the diet is replaced by omega-6 PUFA, the blood cholesterol levels go down, This may be part of the reason why higher omega-6 diets are heart-healthy, ." says Harris.

The American Heart Association says a balance of Omega 3 and Omega 6 fatty acids is important for a healthy heart. Dr. Harris reminds says, "…it's important to remember to focus on an overall healthy dietary pattern – one nutrient or one type of food isn't a cure-all."

A heart healthy diet includes eating a variety of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean meat, poultry, and fish twice a week. Daily serving of Omega 6 fatty acids includes 12 to 22 grams per day, depending on age gender, and physical activity level.

The body cannot produce Omega 6 fatty acid, so it is important to get them from food says the American Heart Association advisory. Omega-6 and omega-3 PUFA are both essential for a healthy heart and healthy brain.

Omega-6 Fatty Acids and Risk for Cardiovascular Disease