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Omega-6 fatty acids (also referred to as ω-6 fatty acids or n-6 fatty acids) are a family of pro-inflammatory and anti-inflammatory polyunsaturated fatty acids that have in common a final carbon-carbon double bond in the n-6 position, that is, the sixth bond, counting from the methyl end.
The biological effects of the omega-6 fatty acids are largely produced during and after physical activity for the purpose of promoting growth and during the inflammatory cascade to halt cell damage and promote cell repair by their conversion to omega-6 eicosanoids that bind to diverse receptors found in every tissue of the body.
Linoleic acid (18:2, n−6), the shortest-chained omega-6 fatty acid, is one of many essential fatty acids and is categorized as an essential fatty acid because the human body cannot synthesize it. Mammalian cells lack the enzyme omega-3 desaturase and therefore cannot convert omega-6 fatty acids to omega-3 fatty acids. Closely related omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids act as competing substrates for the same enzymes. This outlines the importance of the proportion of omega-3 to omega-6 fatty acids in a diet.
Medical research on humans found a correlation (correlation does not imply causation) between the high intake of omega-6 fatty acids from vegetable oils and disease in humans. However, biochemistry research has concluded that air pollution, heavy metals, smoking, second-hand smoke, Lipopolysaccharides, lipid peroxidation products (found mainly in vegetable oils, roasted nuts and roasted oily seeds) and other exogenous toxins initiate the inflammatory response in the cells which leads to the expression of the COX-2 enzyme and subsequently to the temporary production of inflammatory promoting prostaglandins from arachidonic acid for the purpose of alerting the immune system of the cell damage and eventually to the production of anti-inflammatory molecules (e.g. lipoxins & prostacyclin) during the resolution phase of inflammation, after the cell damage has been repaired.
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