Higher Intake of PUFAs Is Associated with Lower Total and Visceral Adiposity and Higher Lean Mass in a Racially Diverse Sample of Children

J Nutr. 2015 Sep;145(9):2146-52. doi: 10.3945/jn.115.212365. Epub 2015 Aug 12.


Background: Polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) are associated with protection from obesity-related phenotypes in adults; however, the relation between reported intake of PUFAs with body-composition outcomes in children remains unknown.

Objective: Our objective was to examine how self-reported intakes of PUFAs, including total, n-6 (ω-6), and n-3 (ω-3) PUFAs and ratios of n-6 to n-3 PUFAs and PUFAs to saturated fatty acids (SFAs), are associated with measures of adiposity and lean mass (LM) in children. We hypothesized that higher self-reported intakes of PUFAs and the ratio of PUFAs to SFAs would be positively associated with LM and negatively associated with total adiposity.

Methods: Body composition and dietary intake were measured in a racially diverse sample of 311 children (39% European American, 34% African American, and 27% Hispanic American) aged 7-12 y. Body composition and abdominal fat distribution were measured by dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry and computed tomography scans, respectively. Self-reported dietary intakes (including total PUFAs, n-3 PUFAs, n-6 PUFAs, and SFAs) were assessed by using two 24-h recalls. Independent-sample t tests and multiple linear regression analyses were conducted.

Results: Total PUFA intake was positively associated with LM (P = 0.049) and negatively associated with percentage of body fat (%BF; P = 0.033) and intra-abdominal adipose tissue (IAAT; P = 0.022). A higher ratio of PUFAs to SFAs was associated with higher LM (P = 0.030) and lower %BF (P = 0.028) and IAAT (P = 0.048). Intakes of n-3 and n-6 PUFAs were positively associated with LM (P = 0.017 and P = 0.021, respectively), and the ratio of n-6 to n-3 PUFAs was negatively associated with IAAT (P = 0.014). All results were independent of biological, environmental, and genetic covariates.

Conclusions: Our results show that a higher self-reported intake of PUFAs and a higher ratio of PUFAs to SFAs are positively associated with LM and negatively associated with visceral adiposity and %BF in a healthy cohort of racially diverse children aged 7-12 y. This trial was registered at clinicaltrials.gov as NCT00726778.

Keywords: African American; Hispanic; body composition; fat mass; non-Hispanic white; n–3 PUFA; n–6 PUFA; obesity; saturated fatty acid.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Absorptiometry, Photon
  • Adiposity*
  • Black or African American
  • Body Composition
  • Body Mass Index
  • Child
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Dietary Fats / administration & dosage
  • Fatty Acids / administration & dosage
  • Fatty Acids, Omega-3 / administration & dosage*
  • Fatty Acids, Omega-6 / administration & dosage*
  • Female
  • Hispanic or Latino
  • Humans
  • Intra-Abdominal Fat*
  • Linear Models
  • Male
  • Mental Recall
  • White People


  • Dietary Fats
  • Fatty Acids
  • Fatty Acids, Omega-3
  • Fatty Acids, Omega-6

Associated data

  • ClinicalTrials.gov/NCT00726778