There are those who recommend substantial reductions in omega-6 fatty acid intake. Now, the American Heart Association (AHA) says, “enough already.”

The AHA has published an advisory that reviews evidence on the relationship between omega-6 fatty acids and the risk of coronary heart disease (angina and heart attack) and cardiovascular disease (congestive heart failure, and stroke).

First, some background

  • Linoleic acid (LA) is the primary dietary omega-6 fatty acid.
  • Humans cannot make LA.
  • There are no minimum requirements for healthy adults, although it’s suggested that LA intake of 0.5% to 2% of energy is sufficient.
  • After intake, LA is metabolized to the omega-6 fatty acid arachidonic acid (AA), which accounts for 85% to 90% of the dietary omega-6 fatty acid.

And, the results.

  • Data from human studies and animal feeding experiments indicate that consuming at least 5% to 10% of energy from omega-6 fatty acids reduces the risk of coronary heart disease relative to lower intakes.
  • Higher intakes appear to be safe and may be even more beneficial when part of a low–saturated fat, low-cholesterol diet.

The bottom line?
The AHA supports “an omega-6 fatty acid intake of at least 5% to 10% of energy when combined with other AHA lifestyle and dietary recommendations.”

Furthermore, “To reduce omega-6 fatty acid intakes from their current levels would be more likely to increase than to decrease risk for coronary heart disease.  Higher LA content is associated with lower risk of coronary heart disease, while AA is unrelated to this risk.”

Interesting, but how does any of this apply to the majority of people who read this blog? And what does it say about the relative amounts of omega-6 to omega-3 in most Western diets, which is the topic of most articles on the subject?

According to the University of Maryland website, “Lack of omega-6 fatty acids… is extremely rare in diets of those living in certain Western countries, particularly the United States, as well as Israel.”

In fact, North American and Israeli diets tend to have too much omega-6, particularly in relation to omega-3 fatty acids. This imbalance contributes to long-term diseases such as heart disease, cancer, asthma, arthritis, and depression. A healthy diet should consist of roughly one omega-3 fatty acids to four omega-6 fatty acids. A typical American diet, however, tends to contain 11 to 30 times more omega-6 than omega-3 fatty acids.

2/12/09 16:08 JR

Hi, I’m JR

John Russo, Jr., PharmD, is president of The MedCom Resource, Inc. Previously, he was senior vice president of medical communications at, a complementary and alternative medicine website.