What are omega-6 fatty acids? Can eating omega-6 fatty acids cause heart disease?

Answers from Donald Hensrud, M.D.

Omega-6 fatty acids are a type of unsaturated fat found in vegetable oils, nuts and seeds. When eaten in moderation and in place of the saturated fats found in meats and dairy products, omega-6 fatty acids can be good for your heart.

At one time, some researchers believed that omega-6 fatty acids metabolize in your body to become a type of fatty acid that can inflame and damage the lining of your arteries. That damage causes narrowing in your arteries, which can lead to heart disease.

However, after reviewing the evidence, the American Heart Association (AHA) recommends that people eat between 5 and 10 percent of their daily calories from omega-6 fatty acids, an amount most people already eat. Replacing saturated fats from foods such as meat, butter, cheese and pastries with plant-based foods that contain omega-6 fatty acids, including vegetable oils, nuts and seeds, will help you achieve the AHA recommendations.

Oct. 10, 2014 See more Expert Answers