Although we need these essential lipids, omega-6 fatty acids are far too plentiful in modern diets. Ideally, our diets should contain omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids in roughly equal amounts. New research suggests that one omega-6, arachidonic acid, may be necessary for healthy skin. University of Illinois researchers found that when they knocked out a mouse gene responsible for an enzyme that helps make arachidonic acid, the animals developed a severe, itchy skin condition, ulcerative dermatitis. They scratched themselves so much that they developed bleeding sores. The discovery of a potential link between arachidonic acid and skin health may eventually lead to treatments for flaking and itching that sometimes develops without an attributable cause in infants, the researchers said. Arachidonic acid is needed for production of prostaglandins, compounds that can cause inflammation, but the Illinois researchers explained that in their study prostaglandins prevented dermatitis, an inflammatory reaction. When they gave the itchy mice arachidonic acid, the animals resumed making prostaglandins. Omega-6 oils are found in seeds and nuts, and the oils extracted from them.
Learn more about balancing omega-3s and omega-6s in a healthy diet.