Higher ratio of plasma omega-6/omega-3 fatty acids is associated with greater risk of all-cause, cancer, and cardiovascular mortality: a population-based cohort study in UK Biobank

medRxiv [Preprint]. 2024 Jan 10:2023.01.16.23284631. doi: 10.1101/2023.01.16.23284631.


Background: Circulating omega-3 and omega-6 polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) have been associated with various chronic diseases and mortality, but results are conflicting. Few studies examined the role of omega-6/omega-3 ratio in mortality.

Methods: We investigated plasma omega-3 and omega-6 PUFAs and their ratio in relation to all-cause and cause-specific mortality in a large prospective cohort, the UK Biobank. Of 85,425 participants who had complete information on circulating PUFAs, 6,461 died during follow-up, including 2,794 from cancer and 1,668 from cardiovascular disease (CVD). Associations were estimated by multivariable Cox proportional hazards regression with adjustment for relevant risk factors.

Results: Risk for all three mortality outcomes increased as the ratio of omega-6/omega-3 PUFAs increased (all Ptrend < 0.05). Comparing the highest to the lowest quintiles, individuals had 26% (95% CI, 15-38%) higher total mortality, 14% (95% CI, 0-31%) higher cancer mortality, and 31% (95% CI, 10-55%) higher CVD mortality. Moreover, omega-3 and omega-6 PUFAs in plasma were all inversely associated with all-cause, cancer, and CVD mortality, with omega-3 showing stronger effects.

Conclusions: Using a population-based cohort in UK Biobank, our study revealed a strong association between the ratio of circulating omega-6/omega-3 PUFAs and the risk of all-cause, cancer, and CVD mortality.

Keywords: Mortality; Omega-3 fatty acids; Omega-6 fatty acids; Polyunsaturated fatty acids; Prospective studies.

Publication types

  • Preprint