Question: I read that it’s unlikely that anyone would be deficient in omega-6 fatty acids since they’re found in most vegetable oils. Is that true?
Dr. Wright: Omega-6 fatty acids are found in nuts and seeds, so it would seem logical that oils extracted and produced from them should contain adequate amounts. However, there are several steps in the production process of and use of vegetable oils (corn, sunflower seed, safflower seed, sesame seed, soybean, flaxseed, etc.) that basically destroy most of the oils’ real nutrient value.
When manufacturers extract oil from seeds, they usually leave behind most of the vitamin E and other antioxidants originally present in the various seeds. Plus, as soon as the oils are extracted, they start to oxidize.
Storage of seed oils, especially in containers at home, involves repeated exposure to oxygen as the containers are opened and closed again, which causes further oxidation. Then, when you heat up these seed oils to cook food, they’re oxidized some more, and more of their nutritional quality is compromised.
Given all of these opportunities for oxidation, it’s a small marvel we get useful omega-6 fatty acids from seed oils at all!
But it is possible to ward off at least a little of this oxidation. First, add at least 800 to 1,000 units of vitamin E to each container of oil as soon as it’s opened. This not only helps keep the oil from oxidizing as quickly, but it also helps to make up for what gets lost in the production process). From there, try to limit your consumption of these types of oils to uses that don’t involve heating them (as a salad dressing, for example).
Keep in mind, though, the best sources of the omega-6 fatty acids are whole unroasted nuts and seeds. And remember that even though you do need omega-6 fatty acids, the omega-3s should "outnumber" them.
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