The omega-6/omega-3 fatty acid ratio, genetic variation, and cardiovascular disease

Asia Pac J Clin Nutr. 2008:17 Suppl 1:131-4.


A high omega-6/omega-3 ratio, as is found in today's Western diets, promotes the pathogenesis of many chronic diseases, including cardiovascular disease. Increased dietary intake of linoleic acid (LA) leads to oxidation of low-density lipoprotein (LDL), platelet aggregation, and interferes with the incorporation of essential fatty acids (EFA) in cell membrane phopholipids. Both omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids influence gene expression. Omega-3 fatty acids have strong anti-inflammatory effects, suppress interleukin 1 beta (IL-1 beta), tumor necrosis factor-alpha (TNF alpha) and interleukin-6 (IL-6), whereas omega-6 fatty acids tend to be pro-inflammatory. Because inflammation is at the base of many chronic diseases, including coronary heart disease, dietary intake of omega-3 fatty acids plays an important role in the manifestation of disease, particularly in persons with genetic variation, as for example in individuals with genetic variants at the 5-lipoxygenase (5-LO). Increased dietary arachidonic acid (AA) significantly enhances the apparent atherogenic effect of genotype, whereas increased dietary intake of omega-3 fatty acids eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) blunts this effect. The diet-gene interaction further suggests that dietary omega-6 fatty acids promote, whereas marine omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA inhibit leukotriene-mediated inflammation that leads to atherosclerosis in this subpopulation.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents / administration & dosage
  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents / metabolism
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / etiology
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / genetics*
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / metabolism
  • Fatty Acids, Omega-3 / administration & dosage*
  • Fatty Acids, Omega-3 / metabolism
  • Fatty Acids, Omega-6 / administration & dosage*
  • Fatty Acids, Omega-6 / metabolism
  • Gene Expression Regulation
  • Genetic Variation*
  • Genotype
  • Humans


  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents
  • Fatty Acids, Omega-3
  • Fatty Acids, Omega-6