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Omega-6 Oils and Inflammation

by Barbara D. Allan
Author of Conquering Arthritis

A reader wrote:

“I was just reading the section ‘The Magic of Omega-3 Oils - Calming Inflammation’ on page 224 of your book and it says ‘Omega-3 calms inflammation and Omega-6 turns it on.

Flax seeds or linseed in wooden spoon
Photo by Marco Verch on

While doing some other research on Omega-6 I happened to note an author from WebMD indicating that Evening Primrose which contains mainly the Omega-6 ingredient may also have anti-inflammatory properties.

Can you explain this discrepancy of opinion?”

Yes. I can. The discrepancy is because the statement 'Omega-3 calms inflammation and Omega-6 turns it on' is an over-simplification that I was using to make a point.

If you don’t like chemistry or too many details, just skip the next three paragraphs. If you are interested in the fuller story, read on.

The fuller story is that there are many kinds of omega-6 fatty acids. One of the major ones in the diet is linoleic acid (LA) which is found in sunflower oil, safflower oil, sesame oil and corn oil. This type of fatty acid is an essential nutrient for humans and must be present in the diet in low amounts. When it is present in low amounts and when the body is functioning well, some of this LA is converted to gamma linoleic acid (GLA). GLA is anti-inflammatory and is found in evening primrose oil.

For people who aren't so good at making GLA, supplementing the diet with evening primrose oil or other sources of GLA such as borage seed oil, black current seed oil, or grape seeds can help combat inflammation.

LA is also converted by the body into arachadonic acid (AA), another omega-6 fatty acid which is highly inflammatory. The higher the levels of LA in the diet, the more AA is made. AA is also found in animal products such as meat, dairy and eggs. Other than supplementing with GLA, the higher the level of omega-6 intake in the diet, the more prone a person is to inflammation.

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4 Comments On Omega-6 Oils and Inflammation

Hi Harry, as you mention using slightly different words, IUDs work because the copper in the IUD causes localized irritation, including inflammation. I don't know whether this copper stays localized or whether it tends to migrate to other parts of the body. I actually suspect that, because low serum copper levels in the rest of the body are associated with more RA instead of less, that whatever copper does migrate from the lUD location to the rest of the body, tends to lower inflammation and thus RA propensity in RA susceptible women. How can this be you might ask? It is because copper is an essential element for the immune system to function correctly. Too much copper (at the IUD location) causes inflammation. Too little copper (in the blood serum of many people with RA) also causes inflammation.

Date : 3rd Mar 2019   |  By : Barbara Allan
What do you think about RA and women who use iud? Does iud cause RA and inflammation? The copper iud is made up of copper where the presence of copper increases the levels of copper ions, prostaglandins, and white blood cells within the uterine and tubal fluids. I appreciate your response. Thank you.

Date : 3rd Mar 2019   |  By : Harry
Harry, thank you for your excellent comments. The only thing I would challenge is that the amount of omega-6 in the diet doesn't matter if it isn't processed with high heat or other processing factors (like harsh chemicals) that damage omega-6 oils. I'm in total agreement that heat and processing damage omega-6 oils and that that is bad. However, both the ratio of omega-3 to omega-6 oils in the diet and the total amount of omega-6 oils, even with undamaged omega-6 oils, still matters.

Date : 16th Nov 2013   |  By : Barbara Allan
The problem with omega 6 isn't the amount. The problem is the heating and processing. Our diets are almost exclusively processed and/or heated omega 6 oils like canola, corn and soy oils. A metabolic pathway chart will show that omega 6 creates anti-inflammatories as well as an inflammatory. Parental Omega 6 (Linoleic Acid) creates derivatives as found in Evening Primrose Oil on an as needed basis. Alcohol consumption prevents the conversion of the parent into derivatives meanwhile it accelerates usage of those derivatives. Perhaps that is why pain is reduced when taking alcohol. EPO contains derivatives past the conversion point therefore enabling its effectiveness even while drinking. PGE1 is the body\'s most potent anti-inflammatory and is a derivative of AA. Now remember if the Parent is defective the derivatives will also suffer.

Date : 16th Nov 2013   |  By : Harry

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