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Is There a Recommended Daily Intake for Omega 3 & 6?

Updated July 19, 2017

Both omega-3 and omega-6 are polyunsaturated fatty acids essential to the human body. The ratio of these two fatty acids proves fundamental to their health benefits.

Function

Omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids have opposing functions; yet, both improve health in the appropriate balance. Omega-6 fatty acids increase blood pressure and inflammatory reactions while omega-3 fatty acids oppose these reactions.

Types

Alpha-linolenic (ALA), Dexahaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) comprise the family of omega-3 fatty acids. These fats can be found in fatty fish, canola, flax seeds and walnuts. Linoleic acid (LA), Gamma-linolenic acid (GLA) and Arachidonic acid (AA) form the omega-6 fats. Omega-6 fat sources include: soybean, corn, safflower seeds, nuts, meat, poultry and eggs.

Significance

Americans consume 10 times the quantity of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids. This imbalance contributes to increased inflammatory disorders in the U.S. The ideal ratio ranges between two to four times omega-6 than omega-3 fatty acids.

The Facts

The Institute of Medicine (IOM) established an Adequate Intake (AI) for healthy adults at 12 to 17g/day LA and 1.1 to 1.6g/day ALA. American Heart Association suggests eating a variety of oily fish at least two times a week in addition to plant foods rich in ALA.

Warning

Excessive intake of either fat supplement can cause harm. Omega-3 fats can contribute to prolonged bleeding and suppression of the immune system. Omega-6 fats can lead to gastrointestinal upset.

Considerations

Eating a variety of food sources, as encouraged in the Mediterranean Diet, increases the likelihood of obtaining the ideal balance of fatty acids from foods.

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About the Author

Mary von Ploennies works as a nutrition consultant. In 2004, the American Dietetic Association honored her as Recognized Young Dietitian of the Year. Von Ploennies's nutrition articles can be found on various websites. She earned her Bachelor of Arts in English from the University of California, Los Angeles and her Master of Science in nutritional sciences from San Jose State University.