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Isr Med Assoc J. 2012 Jul;14(7):435-41.

Women's higher risk with N-6 PUFA vs. men's relative advantage: an "N-6 gender nutrition paradox" hypothesis.

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  • 1Institute for Nutrition Research, Rabin Medical Center (Beilinson Campus), Petah Tikva, Israel.


The "Israeli Paradox" (1996) of low national health rankings despite adequate diet - attributed to high dietary n-6 polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA) - coincided with long-observed dichotomies between women's worse international status vs. men's advantage. This raised the possibility of a gender link to high n-6 risk potentially explaining both national phenomena. Israeli women's disadvantage was shown by worse international rankings, i.e., life expectancy (LE)--11th vs. men's 3rd-best/22 countries (2000), and 14th vs. 6th/34 (2010); and all-cause and all-cancer mortality--both 15th vs. 2nd-best/22 (2000), and 15th vs. 6th/22 and 12th vs. 2nd-best/22 (2010). Cancer mortality rates for breast were 21.8% above vs. prostate 30.4% below Eur-A (27 country) averages (2005). Gender gaps/ ratios were smaller than European Union-15 averages, i.e., for LE at birth by 34.4-26.4% (2000-2010), respectively, and at 65 years 45.9-35.3%; all-cause mortality by 43.3-33.4%, and all-cancer 65.2-58.7%. The Israeli diet was mostly close to guidelines, but n-6 intake (10-12% kcal) was much higher than recommended and traditional "Mediterranean diet" levels. Research showing females' greater potential for conversion of PUFA to long-chain PUFA (LCPUFA) may suggest increased production of n-6 eicosanoids with known proinflammatory/oxidative/carcinogenic potential. An "Israeli N-6 Gender Nutrition Paradox" hypothesis is suggested here for the first time, associating women's higher risk and lead in the national "paradox" with greater potential for n-6 conversion to pro-inflammatory/oxidative/carcinogenic eicosanoids compared to men. This may also exacerbate women's risk associated with genetic predisposition (i.e., BRCA) and/or sociopolitical stress. Global abandonment of traditional diets/foods together with increasing n-6 consumption and western disease rates emphasize the importance of considering gender nutrition in epidemiology and preventive strategies.

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