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Exp Biol Med (Maywood). 2010 Jul;235(7):785-95. doi: 10.1258/ebm.2010.009298.

Genetic variants in the metabolism of omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids: their role in the determination of nutritional requirements and chronic disease risk.

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  • 1The Center for Genetics, Nutrition and Health, 2001 S Street NW, Washington, DC 20009, USA.


The tissue composition of polyunsaturated fatty acids is important to health and depends on both dietary intake and metabolism controlled by genetic polymorphisms that should be taken into consideration in the determination of nutritional requirements. Therefore at the same dietary intake of linoleic acid (LA) and alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), their respective health effects may differ due to genetic differences in metabolism. Delta-5 and delta-6 desaturases, FADS1 and FADS2, respectively, influence the serum, plasma and membrane phospholipid levels of LA, ALA and long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids during pregnancy, lactation, and may influence an infant's IQ, atopy and coronary heart disease (CHD) risk. At low intakes of eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), polymorphisms at the 5-lipoxygenase (5-LO) level increase the risk for CHD whereas polymorphisms at cyclooxgenase-2 increase the risk for prostate cancer. At high intakes of LA the risk for breast cancer increases. EPA and DHA influence gene expression. In future, intervention studies on the biological effects of LA, ALA and LC-PUFAs, and the effects of genetic variants in FADS1 and FADS2, 5-LO and cyclooxygenase-2 should be taken into consideration both in the determination of nutritional requirements and chronic disease risk. Furthermore, genome-wide association studies need to include environmental exposures and include diet in the interaction between genetic variation and disease association.

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