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

Written by mary von ploennies
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Is There a Recommended Daily Intake for Omega 3 & 6?
Nuts can provide a vegan source of fatty acids. (Image by Flickr.com, courtesy of Steffen Zahn)

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.

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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.

Is There a Recommended Daily Intake for Omega 3 & 6?
Eggs are a good source of omega-6 fats. (Image by Flickr.com, courtesy of D. Sharon Pruitt)

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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