Omega 6 Fatty Acids

Omega 6 fatty acids are one of the essential fatty acids. This means that the horse cannot synthesize them in their body, so he must get them from his diet.

The most common omega-6 in the equine diet is linoleic acid.

In the body, linoleic acid is converted to either arachidonic acid or the prostoglandin series PG1. Arachadonic acid can be further converted to the prostaglanding series PG2.

Dietary Sources of omega-6's

There are a number of dietary sources of omega-6's available in the equine diet. The table below shows what percentage of the total fatty acids in the product are in the form of linoleic acid:

Dietary Source % Linoleic Acid
Safflower Oil 77%
Sunflower Oil 69%
Corn Oil 61%
Soybean Oil 54%
Cottonseed Oil 51%
Canola Oil 22%

Dietary Requirements

The ideal ratio of omega-6's:omega-3's in the equine diet is thought to be similar to the ideal in other species, which has been found to be 10:1.

The ratio found in membrane-bound phospholipids (think cell membranes) is affected directly by the dietary ratio. If the ratio in the phospholipids is changed enough, it is possible to change the physical properties as well as the function of the cell membranes.

Therefore, it is very important to keep the ratio fairly close to ideal to prevent problems.

The requirement for linoleic acid in the diet is considered to be 1-4% of the total dry matter intake.

Functions in the Body

Omega-6 fatty acids play an important role in a number of body functions including vision, blood clotting, and other areas. Some of the specific physiological functions include:

  • producing steroids and hormones
  • regulating pressure in body fluids (such as blood pressure)
  • regulating cell division
  • regulating smooth muscle activity

There are also an important part of the phospholipid bi-layer, which makes up the cell membrane of every cell in your horse's body.


Omega 6 fatty acids are an essential part of your horse's diet, and I hope this discussion has helped you more thoroughly understand them.


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