Dietary n-6 and n-3 fatty acid balance and cardiovascular health.

January 1, 2004 Human Health and Nutrition Data 0 Comments

Dietary n-6 and n-3 fatty acid balance and cardiovascular health.

Year: 2004
Authors: V Wijendran, K C Hayes.
Publication Name: Annu. Rev. Nutr.
Publication Details: Volume 24; Page 597.


This extensive article by renowned nutritional experts provides overviews of epidemiological and clinical studies related to n-3 and n-6 fatty acid and cardiovascular health. Research has established that the n-6 fatty acid, linoleic acid (LA), and the n-3 fatty acids, linolenic acid (ALA), eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) protect against coronary heart disease (CHD). LA is the major dietary fatty acid regulating low-density lipoprotein (LDL)-C metabolism by down regulating LDL-C production and enhancing its clearance. The available mass of LA is a critical factor determining the hyperlipidemic effects of other dietary fat components, such as saturated and trans fatty acids, as well as cholesterol. N-3 fatty acids are potent anti-arryhthmic agents. EPA and DHA also improve vascular endothelial function and help lower blood pressure, platelet sensitivity, and the serum triglyceride level. The distinct functions of these two families make the balance between dietary n-6 and n-3 fatty acids an important consideration influencing cardiovascular health. The mass of LA required can vary, and depends, in part, on both dietary and genetic effects on lipid and lipoprotein metabolism. Based on published literature describing practical dietary intakes, the authors suggest that consumption of 6% en LA, 0.75% en ALA, and 0.25% en EPA + DHA represents adequate and achievable intakes for most healthy adults. This corresponds to an n-6/n-3 ratio of 6:1. However, the absolute mass of essential fatty acids consumed, rather than their n-6/n-3 ratio, should be the first consideration when contemplating lifelong dietary habits affecting cardiovascular benefit from their intake.

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