Omega-6 fatty acids, just like omega-3 fatty acids, are types of essential polyunsaturated fats. Your body can't produce them, so you have to get them from your diet. Omega-6's regulate your metabolism, keep your bones strong, help your reproductive system function, and stimulate hair and skin growth. While omega-3 fats tend to be anti-inflammatory, omega-6 fats can cause inflammation. Too many omega-6 fats might lead to metabolic disorders, including insulin resistance and obesity. It's important to have the proper ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids. Ideally, the ratio should be 4:1/omega-6:omega-3; but according to a 2010 study published in the "Journal of Lipid Research," the typical ratio is closer to 15:1 -- which can come from a combination of omega-3 deficiency and too much omega-6 fats in your diet.
Substitute olive oil for corn and soybean oils. Corn, soybean and safflower oils are very high in omega-6 fatty acids. Olive oil is a monounsaturated fat and low in omega-6 fatty acids. In addition, The University of Maryland Medical Center notes that people following a Mediterranean-style diet, which includes fish, vegetables, fruits, whole grains and olive oil, have a healthier balance of omega-3 and omega-6 fats and have a lower risk of developing heart disease.
Limit sesame, pumpkin, walnut, wheatgerm and evening primrose oils. One of the reasons for the recent increase in omega-6 consumption is the prevalence of vegetable oils in the Western diet. Solid saturated fats, such as butter and lard, have been replaced by vegetable oils high in omega-6.
Eat foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids. Improving your omega-6:omega-3 ratio is a two-part process -- lowering your omega-6 intake while increasing your omega-3 intake. Eat coldwater fatty fish, such as wild salmon, mackerel, herring and lake trout. If you're a vegetarian, flaxseed and walnuts are rich sources of omega-3's. You could also consider taking a fish oil supplement.
According to a study published by the Center for Genetics, Nutrition and Health in Washington, D.C., the lower your ratio of omega-6:omega-3, the lower your risk for cardiovascular disease, certain types of cancer and obesity.
Always consult your physician before starting any type of supplementation to ensure you face no risk of drug interactions or side effects associated with large doses of omega-3 fatty acids.