Omega-6 fatty acids are considered essential fatty acids. They are necessary for human health, but the body is unable to synthesize them. Along with omega-3 fatty acids, omega-6 fatty acids play a crucial role in brain function, and normal growth and development. Also known as polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs), they help stimulate skin and hair growth, maintain bone health, regulate metabolism, and maintain the reproductive system.
There are several different types of omega-6 fatty acids. Most omega-6 fatty acids in the diet come from vegetable oils in the form of linoleic acid. The body converts linoleic acid to GLA and then to arachidonic acid. You can get GLA from several plant-based oils, including evening primrose oil, borage oil, and black currant seed oil. Most of these oils also contain some linoleic acid.
Not all omega-6 fatty acids behave the same. Linoleic acid and arachidonic acid tend to promote inflammation. GLA, on the other hand, may actually reduce inflammation. Some studies even suggest that GLA protects DNA against damage.
The body converts much of the GLA taken as a supplement to a substance called DGLA that fights inflammation. Certain nutrients including magnesium, zinc, and vitamins C, B3, and B6, help to promote the conversion of GLA to DGLA.