I was recently at a practitioner workshop when the topic of omega oils for hormone health, namely omega-6 fatty acids were discussed. Omega-6 fatty acids (EFAs) are often misrepresented, whereas omega-3 fatty acids, namely EPA and DHA are often emphasised for their health promoting benefits, which is indeed true. However, there is still a role for omega-6 fatty acids in health.
Although both omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids are crucial for growth and development, brain function, reproductive and bone health, excessive omega-6 is considered to promote inflammation. A typical western diet has a 20:1 ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 due to more meat consumed; the Mediterranean diet, however, contains more omega-3 and less omega-6, due to less meat but more olive oil and supportive plant nutrients.
Here’s the nitty gritty biochemistry bit – bear with me!
Omega oils for hormone health
In natural medicine, omega-6 fatty acids containing gamma-linolenic acid (GLA) – e.g. blackcurrant seed, borage and evening primrose oils – are prescribed to counter inflammation. GLA is converted to dihomo gamma linolenic acids (DGLA) if supported by vitamins B3, B6, C and the minerals magnesium and zinc, eventually producing anti-inflammatory 1-thromboxane and prostaglandin-1.
GLA is also useful for blood glucose control, pre-menstrual syndrome (PMS), bloating, breast tenderness, irritability, diabetic nerve conditions, ADHD, and eczema. Evening primrose oil is also excellent for breast tenderness and breast cysts (alongside iodine if deficient).
Fresh, cold-pressed soy, sesame and sunflower oils are good omega-6 fatty acid sources; less beneficial is corn oil, as it does not provide DGLA and is implicated in prostate tumour cell growth.
Omega-6 supplements are not suitable for people with seizure disorders or schizophrenia; during pregnancy; before surgery; with antibiotic therapies and some cancer drugs.
I hope this article clarifies the role of omega-6 fatty acids in health, namely hormone health. As always, seek professional advice.
For more information, refer to the following article on my other website: supplements for hormone health.