Purpose of review: The incidence of obesity and its related metabolic disorders has increased significantly over the past 3 decades, culminating in the current global epidemic of metabolic disease and leading to the search for contributing factors. Exposure of the developing foetus/neonate to a typical Western diet increases their risk of obesity and metabolic disorders throughout the life-course, creating an intergenerational cycle of metabolic disease. In Western countries, this epidemic of metabolic disease has coincided with a marked increase in the intake of omega-6 polyunsaturated fatty acids (omega-6 PUFA), leading to suggestions that the two may be causally related.
Recent findings: Recent studies have emphasized the proadipogenic properties of the omega-6 PUFA, and provided evidence that rodents fed on diets with omega-6 PUFA contents similar to the typical US diet (6-8% energy) have an increased fat mass. Importantly, recent studies have shown that perinatal exposure to a high omega-6 PUFA diet results in a progressive accumulation of body fat across generations.
Summary: This review highlights the recent evidence supporting the role of the omega-6 PUFA in the early life origins of obesity and metabolic disease, the need for more clinical studies and the potential need for health agencies to re-evaluate current recommendations to further increase omega-6 PUFA intakes.