Omega-6 fatty acids are essential fatty acids. Because the body does not make these essential nutrients, they must be obtained from food sources. Omega-6 fatty acids can be found in nuts, seeds and plant based cooking oils. The average diet is typically adequate in omega-6 fatty acids so supplementation is often not necessary. However, some studies have been looking at omega-6 supplements for the treatment of some medical conditions.
Evening primrose is an excellent source of gamma-linolenic acid (GLA), a type of omega-6 fatty acid. The oil is derived from a flowering plant that is native to North America. Researchers have investigated the use of evening primrose oil for alleviating the symptoms of many different medical conditions. There are some studies showing modest benefits for eczema, and that it may be useful for rheumatoid arthritis and breast pain. However, these results are mixed and further research is needed to support these claims.
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Sourced from the leaves of a plant that grows throughout Europe, borage oil contains many essential fatty acids, including GLA, palmitic acid, oleic acid, linoleic acid and eicosenoic acid. Borage oil may be recommended to alleviate stiffness and pain associated with rheumatoid arthritis, as some research indicates that its fatty acids may reduce symptoms associated with the disease, particularly when used along with a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug.
The oil produced from the berries of the sea buckthorn plant, an herb native to Russia and China, is rich in linoleic acid and alpha-linoleic acid. Sea buckthorn oil also contains vitamins A and C, antioxidants that can reduce the amount of oxidative damage caused by environmental free radicals. Sea buckthorn oil is a traditional folk remedy used to shorten the duration of the common cold; however, thus far studies have not been able to confirm this action of the oil.
There are other plant-based oils available on the market that may offer health benefits for some individuals. Although it also contains less healthy saturated fat, coconut oil is sometimes recommended as an alternative fatty acid supplement. Research on the health benefits of the oil is just beginning, but some scientists believe it can be helpful for those with high cholesterol and digestive problems. Olive leaf is another plant-based oil that may provide benefits for the body. The oil is currently being studied for its antibacterial effects as well as its potential to lower blood pressure and blood glucose levels.
Consult with your physician before incorporating any plant-based omega-6 oil supplement into your diet. Because of the potential for side effects and interactions with medications, dietary supplements should be taken only under the supervision of a knowledgeable health professional. You should read product labels and discuss all therapies with a qualified healthcare provider before adding any supplements into your diet.
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