Ratio of Omega-6 to Omega-3 Fatty Acids Plays Role in Obesity

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An imbalance of omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids can lead to weight gain and inflammation.
An imbalance of omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids can lead to weight gain and inflammation.

HealthDay News -- Governments and international organizations should focus on redressing the balance of ω-6 and ω-3 fatty acids in order to address obesity, according to an editorial published in Open Heart.

Artemis P. Simopoulos, MD, from The Center for Genetics, Nutrition, and Health in Washington, D.C., and James J. DiNicolantonio, PharmD, from Saint Luke's Mid America Heart Institute in Kansas, Missouri, discuss the inability of countries to prevent overweight and obesity or maintain weight loss of their populations.

The researchers note that scientific evidence has demonstrated that calories are not equivalent, with calories from ω-6 fatty acids proinflammatory and thrombogenic, whereas calories from ω-3 fatty acids are anti-inflammatory and antithrombotic. In addition, calories from ω-6 fatty acid intake have distinct effects on fat tissue development and type than calories from ω-3 fatty acids. 

Traditionally, the amount of ω-6 and ω-3 fatty acids was balanced, but the recent phenomenon of an imbalance (typically 16:1 in a Western diet) leads to increases in white adipose tissue and chronic inflammation. A high ω-6 to ω-3 ratio also correlates with increased risk of weight gain. 

Genetic differences in the metabolism of fatty acids should also be considered in addressing obesity.

"It is the responsibility of the governments and international organizations to establish nutrition policies based on science and not continue along the same path of focusing exclusively on calories and energy expenditure, which have failed miserably over the past 30 years," the researchers wrote.

Reference

  1. Simopoulos AP, DiNicolantonio JJ. The importance of a balanced ω-6 to ω-3 ratio in the prevention and management of obesity. Open Heart. 2016;3(2). doi:10.1136/openhrt-2015-000385.
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