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Heart Health Center

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Expert Panel: Omega-6 Won't Hurt Heart

American Heart Association Panel Finds No Evidence That Omega-6 Fatty Acids Raise Heart Risk

Good Fat, Bad Fat? continued...

The panel report notes that the advice to reduce omega-6 PUFA intake is typically framed as a call to lower the ratio of dietary omega-6 to omega-3 PUFAs.

"Although increasing omega-3 PUFA tissue levels does reduce the risk of chronic heart disease, it does not follow that decreasing omega-6 levels will do the same," panel members write in the Feb. 17 issue of the AHA journal Circulation. "Indeed, the evidence considered here suggests that it would have the opposite effect."

Heart-Healthy Eating

The AHA recommends eating a diet that includes plenty of fruits, vegetables, high-fiber whole grains, lean meats, poultry, and at least two servings of fish a week.

The panel recommended that 5% to 10% of calories come from omega-6 fatty acids, and Harris says most Americans get it about right. The main omega-6 fatty acid obtained from diet is linoleic acid, which mainly comes from vegetable oils such as safflower, corn, and sunflower.

Instead of focusing on omega-6, Harris says people who want to reduce their heart disease risk should strive to lower their intake of saturated fats from fatty and processed meats and increase the omega 3-fatty acids in their diet by eating fish or taking fish oil supplements.

"Omega-6 fatty acids are not the villains," he says. "These are good fats that are important for cardiovascular health."

AHA past president Robert Eckel, MD, agrees that the analysis does not support the claim that omega-6 PUFAs promote inflammation. Eckel is a professor of medicine at the University of Colorado in Denver.

"The evidence is overwhelming to indicate that diets higher in vegetable oils and lower in saturated fats and trans fats are heart healthy," he tells WebMD. "This needs to be emphasized to counter recent claims that eating vegetable oils is harmful."

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