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Mil Med. 2014 Nov;179(11 Suppl):82-7. doi: 10.7205/MILMED-D-14-00147.

Omega-3 fatty acid biochemistry: perspectives from human nutrition.

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Nutrition Research Program, Child and Family Research Institute, Department of Paediatrics, University of British Columbia, 950 West 28th Avenue, Vancouver, British Columbia V5Z 4H4, Canada.


The possibility that western diets poor in omega-3 and rich in omega-6 fatty acids contribute to the increasing burden of chronic diseases including neurological problems is becoming recognized. Modern, westernized diets provide 80 to 90% of polyunsaturated fatty acids as omega-6 linoleic acid (LA) and are depleted in omega-3 fatty acids, giving a distorted balance of LA to α-linoleic acid, and to eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). LA intakes exceed Δ-6 desaturase needs for maximal activity. LA accumulates in blood and tissue lipids with increasing intake, and this exacerbates competition between LA and limited omega-3 fatty acids for metabolism and acylation into tissue lipids. Increasing EPA and DHA intake decreases tissue omega-6 fatty acids while also providing EPA and DHA. However, strategies for EPA and DHA supplementation do not address potential underlying problems of omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acid imbalance in the food supply.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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