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Concept: Omega-6 fatty acid


Over the last century, intakes of omega-6 (ω-6) fatty acids in Western diets have dramatically increased, while omega-3 (ω-3) intakes have fallen. Resulting ω-6/ω-3 intake ratios have risen to nutritionally undesirable levels, generally 10 to 15, compared to a possible optimal ratio near 2.3. We report results of the first large-scale, nationwide study of fatty acids in U.S. organic and conventional milk. Averaged over 12 months, organic milk contained 25% less ω-6 fatty acids and 62% more ω-3 fatty acids than conventional milk, yielding a 2.5-fold higher ω-6/ω-3 ratio in conventional compared to organic milk (5.77 vs. 2.28). All individual ω-3 fatty acid concentrations were higher in organic milk-α-linolenic acid (by 60%), eicosapentaenoic acid (32%), and docosapentaenoic acid (19%)-as was the concentration of conjugated linoleic acid (18%). We report mostly moderate regional and seasonal variability in milk fatty acid profiles. Hypothetical diets of adult women were modeled to assess milk fatty-acid-driven differences in overall dietary ω-6/ω-3 ratios. Diets varied according to three choices: high instead of moderate dairy consumption; organic vs. conventional dairy products; and reduced vs. typical consumption of ω-6 fatty acids. The three choices together would decrease the ω-6/ω-3 ratio among adult women by ∼80% of the total decrease needed to reach a target ratio of 2.3, with relative impact “switch to low ω-6 foods” > “switch to organic dairy products” ≈ “increase consumption of conventional dairy products.” Based on recommended servings of dairy products and seafoods, dairy products supply far more α-linolenic acid than seafoods, about one-third as much eicosapentaenoic acid, and slightly more docosapentaenoic acid, but negligible docosahexaenoic acid. We conclude that consumers have viable options to reduce average ω-6/ω-3 intake ratios, thereby reducing or eliminating probable risk factors for a wide range of developmental and chronic health problems.

Concepts: Nutrition, Fatty acid, Fatty acids, Omega-3 fatty acid, Butter, Eicosapentaenoic acid, Omega-6 fatty acid, Linoleic acid


Long chain polyunsaturated fatty acids (LCPUFA) are bioactive components of membrane phospholipids and serve as substrates for signaling molecules. LCPUFA can be obtained directly from animal foods or synthesized endogenously from 18 carbon precursors via the FADS2 coded enzyme. Vegans rely almost exclusively on endogenous synthesis to generate LCPUFA and we hypothesized that an adaptive genetic polymorphism would confer advantage. The rs66698963 polymorphism, a 22-bp insertion-deletion within FADS2, is associated with basal FADS1 expression, and coordinated induction of FADS1 and FADS2 in vitro. Here, we determined rs66698963 genotype frequencies from 234 individuals of a primarily vegetarian Indian population and 311 individuals from the US. A much higher I/I genotype frequency was found in Indians (68%) than in the US (18%). Analysis using 1000 Genomes Project data confirmed our observation, revealing a global I/I genotype of 70% in South Asians, 53% in Africans, 29% in East Asians, and 17% in Europeans. Tests based on population divergence, site frequency spectrum, and long-range haplotype consistently point to positive selection encompassing rs66698963 in South Asian, African, and some East Asian populations. Basal plasma phospholipid arachidonic acid (ARA) status was 8% greater in I/I compared with D/D individuals. The biochemical pathway product-precursor difference, ARA minus linoleic acid, was 31% and 13% greater for I/I and I/D compared with D/D, respectively. This study is consistent with previous in vitro data suggesting that the insertion allele enhances n-6 LCPUFA synthesis and may confer an adaptive advantage in South Asians because of the traditional plant-based diet practice.

Concepts: Genetics, Allele, Fatty acid, Fatty acids, Essential fatty acid, Omega-6 fatty acid, Linoleic acid, Arachidonic acid


BACKGROUND: Given that acne is a rare condition in societies with higher consumption of omega-3 (n-3) relative to omega-6 (n-6) fatty acids, supplementation with n-3 may suppress inflammatory cytokine production and thereby reduce acne severity. METHODS: 13 individuals with inflammatory acne were given three grams of fish oil containing 930 mg of EPA to their unchanged diet and existing acne remedies for 12 weeks. Acne was assessed using an overall severity grading scale, total inflammatory lesion counts, and colorimetry. FINDINGS: There was no significant change in acne grading and inflammatory counts at week 12 compared to baseline. However, there was a broad range of response to the intervention on an individual basis. The results showed that acne severity improved in 8 individuals, worsened in 4, and remained unchanged in 1. Interestingly, among the individuals who showed improvement, 7 were classified as having moderate to severe acne at baseline, while 3 of the 4 whose acne deteriorated were classified as having mild acne. CONCLUSION: There is some evidence that fish oil supplementation is associated with an improvement in overall acne severity, especially for individuals with moderate to severe acne. Divergent responses to fish oil in our pilot study indicates that dietary and supplemental lipids are worthy of further investigation in acne.

Concepts: Nutrition, Fatty acid, Essential fatty acid, Omega-3 fatty acid, Fat, Eicosapentaenoic acid, Omega-6 fatty acid, Fish oil


Early randomized controlled trials (RCTs) demonstrated the health benefits of omega-3 fatty acids (n-3), whereas recent RCTs were negative. We now address the issue, focusing on the temporal changes having occurred: most patients in recent RCTs are no longer n-3 deficient and the vast majority are now treated with statins. Recent RCTs testing n-3 against arrhythmias suggest that n-3 reduce the risk only in patients not taking a statin. Other recent RCTs in secondary prevention were negative although, in a post-hoc analysis separating statin users and non-users, non-significant protection of n-3 was observed among statin non-users whereas statin users had no effect. Recent RCTs testing statins - after the implementation of the New Clinical Trial Regulation in 2007 - are negative (or flawed) suggesting that the lack of effect of n-3 cannot be attributed to a parallel protection by statins. Finally, statins favor the metabolism of omega-6 fatty acids (n-6), which in turn inhibits n-3 and, contrary to n-3, they increase insulin resistance and the risk of diabetes.Thus, n-3 and statins are counteractive at several levels and statins appear to inhibit n-3.

Concepts: Nutrition, Fatty acid, Triglyceride, Essential fatty acid, Omega-3 fatty acid, Clinical research, Omega-6 fatty acid, Omega-9 fatty acid


BACKGROUND: The objective of this study was to evaluate the mediating role of maternal early pregnancy plasma levels of long chain polyunsaturated fatty acids (LCPUFAs) in the association of interpregnancy interval (IPI) with birth weight and smallness for gestational age (SGA) at birth. METHODS: We analysed a subsample of the Amsterdam Born Children and their Development (ABCD) cohort, comprising 1,659 parous pregnant women recruited between January 2003 and March 2004. We used linear and logistic regression to evaluate the associations between fatty acid status, interpregnancy interval and pregnancy outcome. RESULTS: Low plasma phospholipids concentrations of eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and dihomo-gamma-linolenic acid (DGLA), and high concentrations of arachidonic acid (AA) during early pregnancy were associated with reduced birth weight and/or an increased risk of SGA. Short IPIs (< 6 months, with 18--23 months as a reference) were associated with a mean decrease of 207.6 g (SE: +/- 73.1) in birth weight (p = 0.005) and a twofold increased risk of SGA (OR: 2.05; CI: 0.93--4.51; p = 0.074). Adjustment for maternal fatty acid concentrations did not affect these results to any meaningful extent. CONCLUSIONS: Despite the observed association of maternal early pregnancy LCPUFA status with birth weight and SGA, our study provides no evidence for the existence of an important role of maternal EPA, DHA, DGLA or AA in the association of short interpregnancy intervals with birth weight and SGA.

Concepts: Fatty acid, Fatty acids, Essential fatty acid, Eicosapentaenoic acid, Omega-6 fatty acid, Linoleic acid, Arachidonic acid, Polyunsaturated fatty acid


Within the secreted phospholipase A2 (sPLA2) family, group X sPLA2 (sPLA2-X) has the highest capacity to hydrolyze cellular membranes and has long been thought to promote inflammation by releasing arachidonic acid (AA), a precursor of pro-inflammatory eicosanoids. Unexpectedly, we found that transgenic mice globally overexpressing human sPLA2-X (PLA2G10-Tg) displayed striking immunosuppressive and lean phenotypes with lymphopenia and increased M2-like macrophages, accompanied by marked elevation of free ω-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) and their metabolites. Studies using Pla2g10-deficient mice revealed that endogenous sPLA2-X, which is highly expressed in the colon epithelium and spermatozoa, mobilized ωPUFAs or their metabolites to protect against dextran sulfate-induced colitis and to promote fertilization, respectively. In colitis, sPLA2-X deficiency increased colorectal expression of Th17 cytokines, and ω3 PUFAs attenuated their production by lamina propria cells partly through the fatty acid receptor GPR120. In comparison, cytosolic phospholipase A2 (cPLA2α) protects from colitis by mobilizing ω-6 AA metabolites including prostaglandin E2. Thus, our results underscore a previously unrecognized role of sPLA2-X as an ω3 PUFA mobilizer in vivo, segregated mobilization of ω-3 and ω-6 PUFA metabolites by sPLA2-X and cPLA2α, respectively, in protection against colitis, and the novel role of a particular sPLA2-X-driven PUFA in fertilization.

Concepts: Nutrition, Fatty acid, Fatty acids, Essential fatty acid, Phospholipase A2, Omega-6 fatty acid, Prostaglandin, Arachidonic acid


The small intestine plays an essential role in the health and well-being of animals. Previous studies have shown that Lactobacillus has a protective effect on intestinal morphology, intestinal epithelium integrity and appropriate maturation of gut-associated tissues. Here, gene expression in jejunum tissue of weaned piglets was investigated by RNA-seq analysis after administration of sterile saline, Lactobacillus reuteri, or an antibiotic (chlortetracycline). In total, 401 and 293 genes were significantly regulated by chlortetracycline and L. reuteri, respectively, compared with control treatment. Notably, the HP, NOX1 and GPX2 genes were significantly up-regulated in the L. reuteri group compared with control, which is related to the antioxidant ability of this strain. In addition, the expression of genes related to arachidonic acid metabolism and linoleic acid metabolism enriched after treatment with L. reuteri. The fatty acid composition in the jejunum and colon was examined by GC-MS analysis and suggested that the MUFA C18:1n9c, and PUFAs C18:2n6c and C20:4n6 were increased in the L. reuteri group, verifying the GO enrichment and KEGG pathway analyses of the RNA-seq results. The results contribute to our understanding of the probiotic activity of this strain and its application in pig production.

Concepts: Gene expression, Bacteria, Fatty acid, Probiotic, Omega-6 fatty acid, Linoleic acid, Arachidonic acid, Essential fatty acid interactions


Little is known about the relationship between perceptions of nutrient adequacy and biomarkers of nutrition status. This cross-sectional study of U.S. and German adults (n = 200; 18-80 years) compared dietary practices, knowledge, and beliefs of omega-3 fatty acids (O3-FA) with the omega-3 index (O3-I), an erythrocyte-based biomarker associated with cardiovascular disease (CVD) risk. More than half of adults believed that O3-FAs are beneficial for heart and brain health and could correctly identify the food sources of O3-FA. However, the mean O3-I in the U.S. (4.3%) and Germany (5.5%) puts the majority of adults sampled (99%) in intermediate or high CVD-risk categories. More Americans were considered at high CVD-risk (40%) when compared with Germans (10%). In the U.S., but not Germany, women had a significantly higher O3-I than men (4.8% vs. 3.8%, p < 0.001). In the intermediate CVD-risk group, about one-third of adults in both countries (30% in the U.S. and 27% in Germany) believed their diet was adequate in O3-FA. Notably, mean O3-I concentrations did not significantly differ with dietary perceptions of adequacy. More adults in Germany (26%) than in the U.S. (10%) believed that dietary supplements are needed to achieve a balanced diet. In spite of adequate knowledge about food sources and a consistent belief that O3-FA are important for health, very few participants had O3-I concentrations in the range for CVD protection.

Concepts: Nutrition, Fatty acid, Triglyceride, Essential fatty acid, Omega-3 fatty acid, Eicosapentaenoic acid, Omega-6 fatty acid, Omega-9 fatty acid


In the past three decades, total fat and saturated fat intake as a percentage of total calories has continuously decreased in Western diets, while the intake of omega-6 fatty acid increased and the omega-3 fatty acid decreased, resulting in a large increase in the omega-6/omega-3 ratio from 1:1 during evolution to 20:1 today or even higher. This change in the composition of fatty acids parallels a significant increase in the prevalence of overweight and obesity. Experimental studies have suggested that omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids elicit divergent effects on body fat gain through mechanisms of adipogenesis, browning of adipose tissue, lipid homeostasis, brain-gut-adipose tissue axis, and most importantly systemic inflammation. Prospective studies clearly show an increase in the risk of obesity as the level of omega-6 fatty acids and the omega-6/omega-3 ratio increase in red blood cell (RBC) membrane phospholipids, whereas high omega-3 RBC membrane phospholipids decrease the risk of obesity. Recent studies in humans show that in addition to absolute amounts of omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acid intake, the omega-6/omega-3 ratio plays an important role in increasing the development of obesity via both AA eicosanoid metabolites and hyperactivity of the cannabinoid system, which can be reversed with increased intake of eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). A balanced omega-6/omega-3 ratio is important for health and in the prevention and management of obesity.

Concepts: Nutrition, Fatty acid, Fatty acids, Essential fatty acid, Omega-3 fatty acid, Eicosapentaenoic acid, Omega-6 fatty acid, Prostaglandin


Background: Choline status has been associated with stunting among young children. Findings from this study showed that an egg intervention improved linear growth by a length-for-age z score of 0.63.Objective: We aimed to test the efficacy of eggs introduced early in complementary feeding on plasma concentrations of biomarkers in choline pathways, vitamins B-12 and A, and essential fatty acids.Design: A randomized controlled trial, the Lulun (“egg” in Kichwa) Project, was conducted in a rural indigenous population of Ecuador. Infants aged 6-9 mo were randomly assigned to treatment (1 egg/d for 6 mo; n = 80) and control (no intervention; n = 83) groups. Socioeconomic data, anthropometric measures, and blood samples were collected at baseline and endline. Household visits were made weekly for morbidity surveillance. We tested vitamin B-12 plasma concentrations by using chemiluminescent competitive immunoassay and plasma concentrations of choline, betaine, dimethylglycine, retinol, essential fatty acids, methionine, dimethylamine (DMA), trimethylamine, and trimethylamine-N-oxide (TMAO) with the use of liquid chromatography-tandem mass spectrometry.Results: Socioeconomic factors and biomarker concentrations were comparable at baseline. Of infants, 11.4% were vitamin B-12 deficient and 31.7% marginally deficient at baseline. In adjusted generalized linear regression modeling, the egg intervention increased plasma concentrations compared with control by the following effect sizes: choline, 0.35 (95% CI: 0.12, 0.57); betaine, 0.29 (95% CI: 0.01, 0.58); methionine, 0.31 (95% CI: 0.03, 0.60); docosahexaenoic acid, 0.43 (95% CI: 0.13, 0.73); DMA, 0.37 (95% CI: 0.37, 0.69); and TMAO, 0.33 (95% CI: 0.08, 0.58). No significant group differences were found for vitamin B-12, retinol, linoleic acid (LA), α-linolenic acid (ALA), or ratios of betaine to choline and LA to ALA.Conclusion: The findings supported our hypothesis that early introduction of eggs significantly improved choline and other markers in its methyl group metabolism pathway. This trial was registered at as NCT02446873.

Concepts: Nutrition, Fatty acid, Fatty acids, Essential fatty acid, Omega-3 fatty acid, Vitamin B12, Omega-6 fatty acid, Linoleic acid