Linoleic acid is an omega-6 fatty acid part of the polyunsaturated fatty acids family. It is the only essential omega-6 fatty acid, meaning that our body cannot produce it naturally so it must be obtained through our diet. Although linoleic acid is essential and consuming foods containing omega-6 fatty acids can help reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease, a high consumption of linoleic acid may also contribute to the development of low-grade inflammation in the body.
Omega-6 fatty acids are crucial for growth, cell membrane structure, and to maintain a healthy immune system. Linoleic acid also plays a role in brain activity, hair growth, bone density, energy source, and participates in preserving nerve blood flow.
During exercise, fatty acids are a major source of fuel as the human body utilizes its energy from fat to maintain crucial muscle and liver glycogen stores. In addition, they ensure muscle contraction. With regular training, fatty acids allow to delay the consumption of glycogen and therefore to prolong the exercise.
A deficiency in essential fatty acids, through a lack of fatty acids intake (e.g. low-quality fat diets) or medical conditions with malabsorption, may lead to diseases of the digestive tract and to skin problems. In the long term, this can lead to an alteration in the structure of cell membranes and the production of hormones.
As the famous saying goes: all in moderation. As mentioned beforehand, an excess of linoleic acid can also be harmful if taken in exceeding doses. It is easy to consume too much linoleic acid, especially in western societies since oils rich in linoleic acid are often used to produce processed foods. An excess of omega-6 fatty acids, combined with a lack of omega-3 fatty acids, can lead to the development of inflammation in the body and promote the onset of certain diseases, including cardiovascular disease, cancer, and inflammatory and autoimmune diseases.
Many foods contain linoleic acid, especially vegetable oils such as safflower oil (linoleic), grapeseed oil, wheat germ oil, walnut oil, poppy seed oil, sunflower oil (mid-oleic), and soybean oil. Other foods that are high in linoleic oil include seeds (e.g. sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds) and nuts (e.g. pine nuts, walnuts, Brazil nuts). It is important to specify that the need for linoleic fatty acids (omega-6) is higher than the need for alpha linolenic fatty acids (omega-3). However, it is necessary to maintain a balance between the consumption of these two types of essential polyunsaturated fatty acids.
In conclusion, our linoleic acid levels impact many aspects of our mental and physical health. In order to make sure that your linoleic acid levels are balanced and steady, make sure to test your levels and to evaluate how you can make the right changes to rebalance your body and mind.