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What is Linoleic Acid – Is It Bad For You?

Mass farming of linoleic acid sources

With fat sources, articles often focus on whether something is good or bad. But in the world of nutrition, it is never that simple. For instance, current knowledge states that decreasing cholesterol intake can help prevent plaque formations and keep your heart healthy. This led to the infamous “eating fat is bad'' craze that leaped into hyperfocus on supposed heart-healthy foods. These foods often included refined sugars, dangerous trans fats, and the pumping of seed oils into our diet by big companies. It brought us further and further away from wholesome, healthy fat sources. It’s well known that unnatural trans fats, also known as “partially hydrogenated” oils, are detrimental to our health. Unfortunately, foods high in linoleic acid went relatively unnoticed. But what exactly is linoleic acid? Is it as heart-healthy as modern medicine claims?

What is Linoleic Acid?

Linoleic acid is an Essential Fatty Acid. The body can’t produce it on its own, so we have to get it through food. Now, what our body does to it is pretty amazing. Linoleic acid is what the body uses for multiple enzymes and signaling molecules. It is part of stimulating skin and hair growth. Is responsible for blood vessel integrity

On the flip side, the same pathway produces pro-inflammatory molecules in our body. Too much is not good either. It is the driver of asthma and a key component in allergies. While it is not cut and dry, foods high in linoleic acid seem to contribute to these issues. But there are multiple studies published in the most heavily reviewed journals pointing to linoleic acid excess as a hidden source of uninhibited inflammatory processes.

Why Would an Essential Nutrient Harm Us?

Like everything we put into our bodies, more is not always better. Although what linoleic acid  does is clearly beneficial, the amount we eat is way higher than it was in the past. Our intake of Omega-6 rich plant oils like soybean and corn oil has tripled since the 1930s. Historically, seed and plant oils made up anywhere from 1-2% of the U.S. diet. 

Currently, the average is over 7%. It’s also the only polyunsaturated fatty acid that’s increased in the same amount of time. People aren’t eating more omega-3 sources, which is key to maintaining a healthy balance and thwarting the potential downsides of too much linoleic acid. 

The Ratio Is Off

Omega-6 fatty acids can be kept at healthy levels if omega-3 fatty acids are also consumed in equal proportions. Unfortunately, the balance is tipped wildly towards the side of Omega-6 and Linoleic acid is what makes up most of it. This can result in possible overactive immune functions in every organ system, even the brain. 

An experiment done by Ramsden et al. reported that lowering foods high in linoleic acid from an average of 7% to a modest 2% while increasing DHA and EPA (Omega-3) reduced migraine frequency and improved quality of life in chronic, drug-resistant migraine sufferers. Another group in the same study saw no improvement in their quality of life by just reducing linoleic acid intake. In rats, pro-inflammatory compounds in their brain saw a significant reduction when omega-6  consumption was reduced from 5.2% to 0.4%. Commercial linoleic acid is what made up the omega-6 source. 

In another study, Voskuyl et al. injected linoleic acid directly into rat subjects. Strange science, yes. But the scientists saw a 3-9 fold increase in seizures. It seems that multiple studies point to the idea that eating a lot of linoleic acid without adding omega-3s, like we do in the standard Western Diet, can be potentially harmful in the long run. 

Factory line separation of plants material for linoleic acid

Eating Out 

Seed and plant oils are not inherently bad. But what we are seeing is an injection of linoleic acid into all supposed healthy alternatives. People aren’t cooking nutritious home meals anymore. The top brands of vegan “burger meat” are loaded with shady sources of Linoleic acid. There’s nothing natural about it. Restaurants douse healthy vegetables with cups of soybean and canola oil to make food palatable. This further contributes to that wild imbalance. We may be clean and organized in our home cooking– using healthy organic coconut oils instead of refined grapeseed oil, but store-bought and restaurant-made food use linoleic acid to a disproportionate degree. This is often done under the questionable guise of being “heart healthy”. 

Takeaways

With all the possible things that may go wrong with excessive intake of omega-6, why do we see it in virtually every food product? It’s big business. Making packaged foods high in linoleic acid means there’s a huge industry pumping out heavily processed cooking and industrial oils. What is considered heart healthy is just linoleic acid being pushed into the market. 

Wildly Organic is dedicated to bringing wholesome ingredients to your table. Foods like non-GMO chia seeds and organic coconut oil can be a healthier substitute for high linoleic acid oils. These are simple and wonderfully delicious ways to vary and balance organic healthy fats in your diet. Plus, using natural ingredients just makes sense. They’ve been keeping us up and running for ages, not processed “beyond” products. We get enough of that anyway. It’s time to treat our bodies right. 

These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.


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