Arthritis is a common condition affecting over 10 million people in the UK. It causes pain, inflammation and stiffness of the joints, such as the hands, feet, knees and hips. There is no cure for arthritis, but symptoms can be improved by including foods with anti-inflammatory properties in your diet. Other foods can increase inflammation in the body, so people with arthritis may want to limit their intake of these foods.
One popular and common cooking oil which may increase inflammation in the body when eaten in excess, is sunflower oil.
Sunflower oil contains omega-6 – one of the ‘essential fatty acids’.
Essential fatty acids, like omega-6 and omega-3, can’t be produced by the body so must be sourced from your diet.
The health benefits of omega fatty acids are widely promoted as helping to improve things like brain, heart and eye health, and medical professionals advise everyone include some in their diets.
Omega-3 has been shown to help reduce inflammation, so could be beneficial to people with arthritis.
But in contrast, omega-6 can trigger the body to produce pro-inflammatory chemicals when eaten in excess.
What’s the difference between omega-3 and omega-6?
Omega-3 fatty acids exist in two forms: long-chain (DHA and EPA) and short-chain (ALA).
Long-chain fatty acids are found in oily fish, such as pilchards, sardines, mackerel and salmon.
Short-chain fatty acids are found in rapeseed oil, flaxseed oil and walnuts.
Omega-6, meanwhile, is found in sunflower oil, corn oil, soy and vegetable oil.
According to Versus Arthritis, the body uses both omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids to make chemicals called prostaglandins and leukotrienes.
“The right balance of these helps to control inflammation,” said Versus Arthritis.
“Too much omega-6 can increase inflammation in the body but omega-3 fatty acids, especially the long-chain forms EPA and DHA, are thought to be of use in inflammatory arthritis.”
As omega-6 is an essential fatty acid, it shouldn’t be avoided, according to the Arthritis Foundation, but if you have arthritis you might not want to consume too much of it.
“They aren’t bad and shouldn’t be avoided, but you don’t want them to dominate your intake,” said the Arthritis Foundation.