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J Integr Med. 2013 Jan;11(1):2-10. doi: 10.3736/jintegrmed2013002.

Differential effects of adulterated versus unadulterated forms of linoleic acid on cardiovascular health.

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Department of Aging and Geriatric Research, University of Florida, Gainesville, Florida 32611, USA.


According to the classic "diet-heart" hypothesis, high dietary intake of saturated fats and cholesterol combined with low intake of polyunsaturated fats can increase levels of serum cholesterol and lead to the development of atherogenic plaques and ultimately cardiovascular diseases. Recently, the beneficial health effects of omega-6 polyunsaturated fatty acids, particularly linoleic acid (LA), on cardiovascular health have been called into question with some scientists suggesting that consumption of LA should be reduced in Western countries. The focus of this critical review is on the controversy surrounding the effects of dietary intake of LA on cardiovascular health. Specifically, we critically examined the effects of both unadulterated and adulterated forms of LA on cardiovascular health outcomes based on findings from epidemiological studies and randomized controlled trials. Additionally, we address common concerns surrounding dietary intake of LA regarding its relationship with arachidonic acid, the ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids, and its relationship with inflammation. Our critical review indicates that unadulterated forms of LA are cardioprotective and should be consumed as part of a healthy diet. In contrast, abundant evidence now indicates that adulterated forms of LA, predominantly hydrogenated vegetable oils, are atherogenic and should not be considered part of a healthy diet. The ability to adulterate the natural omega-6 fatty acid, LA, has contributed to mixed findings regarding the effects of this fatty acid on cardiovascular health. Thus, it is critical that the source of LA be taken into account when drawing conclusions about the physiological effects of this fatty acid. The findings of the present review are in line with current dietary recommendations of the American Heart Association.

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