How Much Omega-6 Fat is Too Much?

How much omega-6 fat is unhealthy and how much should you eat?

A. A committee of scientists from around the world gathered in Washington D.C to answer that question.  They recommended a range of 4.44 to 6.67 grams of omega-6 fat (specifically, linoleic acid) per day.  They stated that enough scientific evidence  exists to cap the limit to a maximum of 6.67 g/day, which is the amount of omega-6 in one tablespoon of corn oil or soybean oil.  Currently, the typical American eats nearly double that amount, averaging 13 grams of omega-6 fat each day.

Notably, the Lyon Diet Heart study, which popularized the health benefits of eating a Mediterranean diet,  also capped the dietary omega-6 fat intake to a similar level of 7 grams per day.  This study made headline news because of it's remarkable (and unprecedented) lower death rate from all causes, especially cancer.  The stunning results were published in the American Heart Association's scientific journal, Circulation (de Lorgeril); accompanied by an editorial (Leaf) , which stressed that only the diet with the lower omega-6 fat and higher omega-3 fat was beneficial.  Interestingly, another group of people in the Lyon Diet Heart study, were put on a classic cardiac diet, which was high in omega-6 fat and they had no such improvement. (Keep in mind the emphasis of eating a heart healthy diet is to replace saturated fats with polyunsaturated fats, which is synonymous with increasing omega-6 fat).

To lower dietary omega-6 fat, means cooking primarily with olive oil, and choosing foods that are made from olive oil, flax seed oil, canola oil or high-oleic oils.  The top  three contributors of omega-6 fat in the diet are soybean oil, cottonseed oil and corn oil; and foods made with these oils, especially margarines, salad dressings and mayonnaise.

Link to Full Text Sources:
Simopoulos, Artemis P., Leaf, Alexander, Salem, Norman, Jr Workshop on the Essentiality of and Recommended Dietary Intakes for Omega-6 and Omega-3 Fatty Acids.J Am Coll Nutr 1999 18: 487-489. (free full text)

Michel de Lorgeril, Patricia Salen, Jean-Louis Martin, Isabelle Monjaud, Jacques Delaye, and Nicole Mamelle Mediterranean Diet, Traditional Risk Factors, and the Rate of Cardiovascular Complications After Myocardial Infarction : Final Report of the Lyon Diet Heart Study Circulation 99: 779-785. (free full text)
Circulation 99: 779-785. (free full text)

Alexander Leaf. Dietary Prevention of Coronary Heart Disease : The Lyon Diet Heart Study.Circulation 99: 733-735 (free full text)

  • October 14, 2008 1:08 PM Omega-6 Fat Research News wrote:
    Omega-6 fatty acids are the most common polyunsaturated fat consumed in the US diet.
  • October 14, 2008 12:38 PM Omega-6 Fat Research News wrote:
    There are two key omega-6 fatty acids in the diet, one found in plants, called linoleic acid and the other is found in animal foods, arachidonic acid.
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