A great deal of discussion in the world of nutrition has given omega-6 fatty acids a bad reputation, which, according to the American Heart Association is unfounded. The debate came about because one of the components of omega-6 fatty acids, called arachidonic acid, is a building block for some inflammation-related molecules. This had led to concern that the fatty acids would lead to a greater risk of heart disease.
That reflects a rather naive understanding of the biochemistry,” says William S. Harris, Director of the Metabolism and Nutrition Research Center of the University of South Dakota Sanford School of Medicine and the nutritionist who led the science advisory committee that issued the report in Circulation. “Omega-6 fatty acids give rise to both pro-inflammatory compounds and anti-inflammatory compounds. To say that they are bad because they produce pro-inflammatory compounds ignores the fact that they give rise to anti-inflammatory compounds as well, he explains.
The committee spent two years assessing more than 24 controlled and observational studies. The studies showed that people with diets high in omega-6 fatty acids experienced a lower incidence of heart disease. The advisory committee suggests that between 5 and 10 percent of our calories come from omega-6 fatty acids. These polyunsaturated fatty acids affect growth and development, and they can help protect arteries from forming plaque when used instead of saturated fats. Recommended daily dose ranges from 12 to 22 grams depending upon age, gender and level of physical activity.