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 actually be good for your heart and brain.

There had been some controversy regarding omega-6 fatty acids. Some researchers had believed that omega-6 fatty acids metabolize in your body to become a type of fatty acid that can cause the lining of your arteries to become inflamed and damaged. That damage causes narrowing in your arteries, which can lead to heart disease.

However, the American Heart Association (AHA) has said that this view is incorrect. The AHA recommends that people eat between 5 and 10 percent of their daily calories from omega-6 fatty acids. Most people already eat this amount of omega-6 fatty acids. If you're concerned about the amount of omega-6 fatty acids you're eating, talk to your doctor about replacing some of the saturated fats in your diet with healthier options.

Oct. 21, 2011