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Why Omega-3? Health Implications of High Dietary Omega-6 Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids

Patterson E1Wall RFitzgerald GFRoss RPStanton C.

Abstract

Omega-6 (n-6) polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA) (e.g., arachidonic acid (AA)) and omega-3 (n-3) PUFA (e.g., eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA)) are precursors to potent lipid mediator signalling molecules, termed "eicosanoids," which have important roles in the regulation of inflammation. In general, eicosanoids derived from n-6 PUFA are proinflammatory while eicosanoids derived from n-3 PUFA are anti-inflammatory. Dietary changes over the past few decades in the intake of n-6 and n-3 PUFA show striking increases in the (n-6) to (n-3) ratio (~15 : 1), which are associated with greater metabolism of the n-6 PUFA compared with n-3 PUFA. Coinciding with this increase in the ratio of (n-6) : (n-3) PUFA are increases in chronic inflammatory diseases such as nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), cardiovascular disease, obesity, inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), rheumatoid arthritis, and Alzheimer's disease (AD). By increasing the ratio of (n-3) : (n-6) PUFA in the Western diet, reductions may be achieved in the incidence of these chronic inflammatory diseases.

 

Conclusion

Increases in the ratio of n-6 : n-3 PUFA, characteristic of the Western diet, could potentiate inflammatory processes and consequently predispose to or exacerbate many inflammatory diseases. The change in ratio and increase in n-6 PUFA consumption change the production of important mediators and regulators of inflammation and immune responses towards a proinflammatory profile. Chronic conditions such as CVD, diabetes, obesity, rheumatoid arthritis, and IBD are all associated with increased production of PGE2, LTB4, TXA2, IL-1β, IL-6, and TNF-α, whereby the production of these factors increases with increased dietary intake of n-6 PUFA and decreased dietary intake of n-3 PUFA. In conclusion, the unbalanced dietary consumption of n-6 : n-3 PUFA is detrimental to human health, and so the impact of dietary supplementation with n-3 PUFA upon the alleviation of inflammatory diseases, more specifically, NAFLD needs to be more thoroughly investigated.