Although linoleic acid is an essential fatty acid, the human body is incapable of producing it. Hence, people need to incorporate this fatty acid in their diet. Linoleic acid is an unsaturated, 18-carbon-long, omega-6 fatty acid. Linoleic acid is also called LA in medical terms and it is present is several vegetable oils, including those extracted from safflower, sunflower and corn. Since linoleic acid is an unsaturated fatty acid, it is considered to be much healthier compared to the saturated fatty acids that are present in dairy products as well as meat.
It is worth mentioning here that essential fatty acids are an indispensable part of our diet, since the human body is unable to synthesize them. Therefore, humans need to obtain linoleic acid from the foods they consume. This is notwithstanding the fact that these days, health conscious people have a tendency to avoid everything that includes fat. Consumption of monounsaturated as well as polyunsaturated fats offers us several health benefits.
When kept at room temperature, linoleic acid is a colorless liquid. In terms of physiological literature, this omega-6 fatty acid contains a lipid number of 18:2 cis.cis-9,12. In terms of chemistry, it is a carboxylic acid having an 18-carbon chain in addition to two cis double bonds. The first of these two bonds is found in the sixth carbon from the end of methyl.
Linoleic acid is a member of one of the two essential fatty acid families. In other words, the human body is incapable of synthesizing this fatty acid from any other food constituents.
The term linoleic has its origin in the Greek word linon or flax. In fact, oleic denotes relating to, of or derived from olive oil. It also means relating to or of oleic acid. This is because when the omega-6 double bond is saturated, it produces oleic acid.
The essential fatty acid, linoleic acid should be consumed by everyone for appropriate health. In case a diet lacks linoleate only, it often results in gentle scaling of the skin, hair loss as well as sluggish healing of wounds in rodents. However, if an individual take a normal diet it is rather impossible for him/ her to suffer from linoleic acid deficiency. Hence, this is not considered to be of any great clinical concern.
Fats are essential for ingesting as well as transporting vitamins that are soluble in fat, for instance vitamin D. In fact, it is especially vital for babies and children to intake enough amounts of fats through their diets as it guarantees adequate development of brain and eyesight. In fact, there is some scientific proof that when some additional linoleic acid is incorporated in the diet of infants and children with cystic fibrosis it can aid in enhancing their health.
Linoleic acid metabolism as well as the role of this omega-6 fatty in sustaining our health is rather intriguing. In fact, linoleic acid is a forerunner of arachidonic acid. It is possible to convert arachidonic acid into several molecules that are biologically active. This fatty acid is metabolized into prostaglandins that are one of the many other molecules that are called aseicosanoids.
Basically chemicals, prostaglandins have a variety of effects on our body. In fact, these chemicals can be found in all the cells of our body and our body requires them for its appropriate maintenance. There are several forms or varieties of prostaglandins and some of them have the potential to affect our body negatively. For example, some prostaglandins may result in inflammation, thereby causing pain in some diseases like arthritis.
It is worth mentioning here that all omega-3 fatty acids are basically polyunsaturated fatty acids. These polyunsaturated fatty acids have dissimilar number of dual bonds compared to the omega-6 fatty acids, such as linoleic acid. Humans mainly get their required omega-3 fatty acids from seafood in their diet. This is the main reason why several Western diets incorporate much less amounts of omega-3 fatty acids compared to diets of several other regions of the world.
Fatty acids belonging to the omega-3 class generate dissimilar varieties of eicosanoids compared to those produced by omega-6 fatty acids. In fact, those belonging to the omega-6 class have a greater potential of causing inflammation compared to the omega-3 types. It is believed that any diet that is very rich in omega-6 fatty acid content has harmful effects on our health. For instance, they may contribute to certain inflammatory conditions like rheumatoid arthritis.
Findings of several studies have suggested that people should intake lesser amounts of omega-6 fatty acids compared to omega-3 fatty acids in their diet with a view to reduce the risks of developing various ailments. Nevertheless, consumption of omega-6 fatty acids is still considered to be healthier compared to eating saturates as well as trans-fat fatty acids. In fact, there is strong evidence linking consumption of excessive amounts of dietary saturated as well as trans-fats and increased risks of developing cardiovascular diseases.
It is necessary to consume omega-6 fatty acids because they are vital for the health as well as youthful appearance of our skin. These fats have a vital role in sustaining the skin’s structural integrity and also maintain its ability to serve as a barrier against alien substances. Omega-6 fatty acids are also vital for synthesizing the eicosanoids – which are molecules that assist in regulating the inflammatory response of the skin. It has been seen that consumption of large amounts of essential fatty acids together with their topical application on the skin not only protect the skin from damages caused by UV rays, but also weaken the damages already done. At the same time, these essential fatty acids also inhibit the skin’s natural aging process.
Ingestion of linoleic acid is very effective for augmenting the essential fatty acids concentration in the skin as well as the other systems of our body. They enable the body to use them whenever the need arises. In addition, linoleic acid can be applied topically on the skin for using this nutrient for the same purpose. A number of companies manufacturing skin care products include linoleic acid with a view to help their consumers take care of their skin better and make it healthier.
Side effects and cautions
Prior to starting consuming linoleic acid, it is important to inform your doctor if you are breastfeeding or pregnant. It has been found that when mothers have elevated levels of linoleic acid, while the level of other essential acids is less in their body, their offsprings face an increased risk of allergy or atopic disease. Diets that contain elevated levels of linoleic acid may also result in allergic inflammation in children. In such cases, the children develop red and itchy swellings.
In case you develop any adverse affects like allergic reactions, hives or itching, rash, swelling in the face or hand, tingling or swelling in the mouth or throat, breathing troubles, and/ or chest tightness after taking linoleic acid, contact your physician straight away.