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.
Keywords: FTO (Fat Mass and Obesity-Associated) Gene; browning of adipose tissue; eicosanoids; endocannabinoids; obesity; omega-6 and omega-3 essential fatty acids; omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acid ratio.