For years, omega-3 fatty acids have been the darling of health and nutrition writers. Many of the ailments plaguing modernity have been ascribed to a lowered intake of omega-3 fatty acids and an overconsumption of omega-6 fatty acids. Many health writers have recommended that people reduce their intake of omega-6 fatty acids and increase their intake of omega-3 fatty acids. But is omega-6 getting a bad rap, and might it actually be better for you than many people believe?
New analysis of health studies has indicated that people who have higher blood levels of linoleic acid, an omega-6 fatty acid, are less likely to develop type 2 diabetes than those who have lower levels of linoleic acid. The findings, published in The Lancet Diabetes & Endocrinology, were taken from an analysis of nearly 40,000 adults from several different nations, across 20 different studies. With type 2 diabetes becoming more and more prevalent in the United States and much of the Western world, anything that could help prevent the risk of developing the disease could be helpful.
Researchers discovered that those with higher blood levels of linoleic acid were 35 percent less likely to develop type 2 diabetes. Because the studies were mostly observational, researchers can’t really pinpoint why exactly those individuals had higher levels of linoleic acid. Common dietary sources of linoleic acid include sunflower oil, soybean oil, canola oil, almonds, and egg yolks. Further study would likely need to be done in order to determine whether the source of linoleic acid plays a role in its effects in protecting against type 2 diabetes.
The drawbacks to omega-6 fatty acids are that they have been linked to an increased risk of inflammation and heart disease. That’s why current dietary recommendations urge limiting the intake of omega-6 fatty acids. But if omega-6 can reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes, perhaps those recommendations might need to be rethought?